Sharjah: Offering an immersive experience of literature, art, culture and technology, the 13th edition of Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF) opened on Wednesday at Expo Centre Sharjah.
His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah – in the presence of Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah – inaugurated the annual reading festival, which is open daily until May 22.
Organised by Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) under theme ‘Create Creativity’, the 12-day literary event is packed with more than 1,900 activities, including 1,140 child activities, 120 cultural activities and 130 artistic performances and theatre productions. There are also several events by cultural personalities, including renowned authors and poets, publishers, artists, movie actors and inspirational young prodigies, as well as culinary experts and social media influencers.
This year’s edition also brings together 139 publishers from 15 countries. Moreover, the 10th edition of the Sharjah Children’s Book Illustration Exhibition will also be held at the festival.
For the first time ever, SCRF 2022 is featuring Robot Zoo, which is an imposing exhibition of eight animal robots built to resemble creatures in the wild – based on the book The Robot Zoo by London-based publisher Marshall Editions. The robotic zoo is designed to pique the interest of children curious to know more about animal behaviour.
Sheikh Sultan tours SCRF
Upon his arrival, Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad was received by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence; Sheikh Salem bin Abdul Rahman Al Qasimi, Head of the Ruler’s Office; Sheikh Sultan bin Abdullah bin Salem Al Qasimi, Director of the Department of Statistics and Community Development, and a number of heads of local departments, senior officials, writers, publishers, and representatives of the media.
After cutting the ceremonial ribbon, Sheikh Sultan watched a performance by a group of Sharjah children and toured the various corridors of the festival. He was accompanied by two children, Mohammed Sami Saif Al Haj and Fatima Ahmed Obaid Sandal, during his tour.
The Ruler of Sharjah also visited the pavilion of the Emirates School Foundation, Sharjah Education Council, Sharjah Private Education Authority, Sharjah Police and the Ministry of Education, and checked the various educational materials produced by authorities.
He also visited the respective pavilions of Rubu’ Qarn Foundation for Creating Leaders and Innovators, Contemporary Crafts Council (Irthi), Sharjah Police General Command, Department of Culture, Kalimat Group, Sharjah Heritage Institute, Department of Statistics and Community Development, Health Education Department and the Child Safety Department of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, UAE Board on Books for Young People, Sharjah Broadcasting Authority. He concluded his tour by visiting the Sharjah Children’s Book Illustrations Exhibition.
Another highlight of SCRF this year is the inaugural Booksellers Conference, where more than 200 regional and international booksellers, distributors and publishers network and explore new market opportunities.
SCRF also features a line-up of 43 international authors from 21 countries. Some of the prominent names include Emirati writers Maryam Al Mazrouei, Asma Al Zarooni and Fatima Sultan Al Mazrouei; Radiya Hafiza, UK-based writer of Rumaysa: A Fairytale and Rumaysa: Ever After; and Egyptian wordsmith Omar Taher, author of Kohl wa Habhan.
The Children’s Book Makers Platform (Ufuq), which aims to promote Arabic children’s books with high-quality visual content, will return to bring together more than 50 Emirati and Arab publishers and illustrators.
Sea of books
As always, children are expected to dive into a sea of books and leaf through its colourful pages. “Cultural festivals like SCRF stimulate children to take up books and reading,” noted one mother who comes to the reading festival every year with her kids.
There are also workshops and lots of storytelling. According to organisers, these sessions are popular with children “as they are encouraged to read more, experiment with interactive puzzles and activity books apart from enjoying peer interactions”.
Children can also interact with the mascots and other literary characters. Celebrity chefs and cookbook authors, including Ciara Atwell and Dario Stephen are also expected liven up the popular Cookery Corner, while the Social Media Station, another annual attraction, will host 25 hands-on activities led by social media influencers and content creators.
The spacious venue also has festival halls for live shows and theatrical plays. There is a musical adaptation of the timeless Scholastic edutainment book series The Magic School Bus, a stunning ice-skating show, the romantic tragedy Zetura, and more.
Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival is free to enter.
Venue: Expo Centre Sharjah
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday (9am- 8pm); Friday (4pm-9pm); Saturday and Sunday (9am- 9pm)
Dates: May 11-22