His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated the 15th edition of SCRF
His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated the 15th edition of SCRF on Wednesday at Expo Centre Sharjah Image Credit: WAM

Sharjah: Writers and illustrators were among those honoured on Wednesday, the opening day of the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF).

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His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated the 15th edition of SCRF. Organised by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), the festival is themed ‘Once Upon a Hero’ and will run until May 12 at Expo Centre Sharjah. The Ruler of Sharjah was received by Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, and Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, Chairperson of SBA, marking the official opening of the festival.

Cultural agenda and activities

The festival, hosting 265 guests, offers a plethora of workshops for children covering topics such as sustainability, fashion, crafts, and music. It also boasts 12 performances, including theatre shows and roaming performances by 19 participants from 12 countries.

SCRF 2024 on May 1
The books on offer span across genres and are available in multiple languages Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Furthermore, the cultural program includes various panel discussions focusing on developing children’s communication skills, with 70 guests from 25 countries participating. Throughout the festival, the Poetry Knight competition will encourage children and young adults to recite Arabic poetry.

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A highlight of the opening was the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was followed by a musical performance by a group from Sharjah, who sang in praise of the Ruler of Sharjah. During his tour of SCRF, Sheikh Sultan witnessed a selection of the 186 Arab and foreign publishers from 20 countries, which will host more than 1,500 cultural, artistic, and edutainment activities led by 265 guests from 25 countries, including prominent writers, artists, publishers, and illustrators.

During the tour, Sheikh Sultan visited several pavilions including that of the UAE Board on Books for Young People, where he was briefed on their major cultural and educational activities that promote reading among children. He also received details on strategies, programmes, and publications as he visited the pavilions of the House of Wisdom, Rubu’ Qarn for Creating Future Leaders and Innovators, the Sharjah Social Services Department, and Sharjah Public Libraries.

Recognition of achievements

The Ruler of Sharjah presented honours to the winners of the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival Award and the Sharjah Children’s Book Illustration Award. The first place was secured by Kyoung mi Ahn from South Korea, followed by Juan Carlos Palomino from Mexico in second place, and Daniela Stamatiadi from Greece in third. He also recognised the winners of three encouragement prizes: Montserrat Batet Creixell from Spain, Santiago Solís from Mexico, and Mitra Abdollahi from Iran.

Furthermore, Sheikh Sultan acknowledged winners of the Sharjah Children’s Book Award across various categories, each prize valued at Dh20,000. Among them, Author Maitha Al Khayyat from the UAE clinched the award for her book “I will Hunt my Breakfast,” illustrated by Gustavo Aimar and published by Kalimat Group in the Children’s Book in Arabic (ages 4 to 12) category.

The Young Adults’ Book in Arabic (ages 13 to 17) category went to Dr Tariq Al Bakri from Lebanon for “The Buried Secret,” illustrated by Fadi Fadel and published by Kalimat Group, receiving the award on his behalf was Manal Mahjoub, editor of Kalimat Group; while the International Children’s Book (ages 7 to 13) category was awarded to Julia Johnson for the title “Aisha’s Pearl,” published by ELF Publishing.

Sheikh Sultan recognised the winner of the Sharjah Audio Book Award, Author Lina Mustafa Al Zebaq from Syria for her book “My grandmother’s hug” published by Al Zebaq Publishing; additionally to honour distinguished works facilitating visually impaired individuals’ access to knowledge and their integration into society the award of Books for Visually Impaired Children Award was presented to Brigadier General Dr Muhammad Khamis Al Othmani from the UAE for his book “Seven Sanabel,” published by Sharjah Police Science Academy.

Sharjah Animation Conference

Also on Wednesday, Sheikh Sultan inaugurated the Sharjah Animation Conference (SAC), which runs at the same venue till May 5, in the presence of Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed and Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, Chairperson of SBA.

The Sharjah Ruler was briefed on the conference’s programming agenda, which will feature 60 events, including 19 workshops, 28 seminars and panel discussions, six speeches, several exhibitions, and three concerts for music enthusiasts. The programme, which seeks to highlight animation’s educational role and its impact on fostering a culture of innovation and creativity, will be led by 70 speakers, content creators and animation experts who hail from 11 countries.

Sheikh Sultan also toured the workshop and discussion spaces that have been created for SAC 2024, and received insights on the various creative tools and experiences, illustrated books as well as other forms of visual arts these spaces will offer to engage and entertain visitors and attendees across age groups.

The conference will host a special celebration for the 30th anniversary of The Lion King with an exclusive world premiere of the short film Mushka by animator Andreas Deja.