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Maissa Al Jabban, Arabic author and storyteller, has kept alive the magic of storytelling at the Sharjah Children's Reading Festival.

Sharjah: Combining education and entertainment, motivational speaker and animal trainer Anthony Estephan is giving his young audience at the ongoing Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF) valuable lessons on nature and environmental protection in both immersive and enjoyable way.

Estephan is making the scene livelier at SCRF’s Robot Zoo with his guitar and music as he explains how animals live in their natural habitat. His activities are tailored for children aged 6 to 15 years old. For toddlers, he has simple jigsaw puzzles, while older kids can join in team sports and animal quiz.

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Motivational speaker and animal trainer Anthony Estephan talking to young audience at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival.

He conducts games, where he divides the children into land and sea animal teams. One of his games involves understanding the depth of the ocean. “This is an adventure game where they can seek knowledge and fun at the same time. I sing strumming the guitar at the end of each game, and that way I am giving them edutainment,” Estephan explained.

The Robot Zoo is the latest addition to the annual SCRF, which opened on Wednesday at Expo Centre Sharjah. Organised by Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), this year’s edition carries the theme ‘Create Creativity’. SCRF runs daily until May 22.

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Children take charge of the kitchen at the Sharjah Children's Reading Festival

Cooking up some fun

Another important highlight of SCRF is the Cookery Corner. American Chef Dario Steven, a culinary instructor from Miami, Florida, USA, led a live cooking demo on Wednesday night with two recipes from his book, ‘Chef D Cooks the World’.

Skilled in global cuisines, Dario asked for volunteers from the audience and helped the young ones express themselves creatively through cooking. He said: “I always want to inspire kids to cook, whether it’s recreational at home or to become professional chefs later in life.”

Dario guided the kids in making Brazilian beef kabobs. He also danced with them while mixing a flavourful marinade. The second dish he and the kids prepared was Canadian Poutine, a combination of French fries and mozzarella cheese, smothered in gravy.

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Relax at worm-shaped couches

After going around various pavilions at SCRF, visitors and bookworms can relax and read at worm-shaped couches at the Sharjah Public Library (SPL) pavilion.

The unique pavilion is attracting children and their parents understand the role of libraries in instilling the habit of reading. There are also storytelling sessions, cultural activities and workshops being held throughout the day for children from 7 to 17 years old.


Maissa Al Jabban, Arabic author and storyteller, has kept alive the magic of storytelling as she creatively narrated nine different stories to young audience.

Targeting children aged six and above, the retelling of tales from Aesop’s Fables gave kids moral lessons about love, friendship and other aspects of life. Other interesting stories retold were about an ogre and a boy named Hassan; the friendship between the chicken and geese; Shashabon the spider that learns to hunt prey; the apple tree and the boy; and the crow that adorns himself with coloured feathers. Al Jabban also shared the stories from Grimm’s Fairy Tales She said every story has a moral lesson that kids will bring and understand as they grow up.

Don’t miss

Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival is free to enter. Catch it until May 22 at Expo Centre Sharjah

Opening hours: Monday to Thursday (9am- 8pm); Friday (4pm-9pm); Saturday and Sunday (9am- 9pm)