Sharjah: Book lovers and families on Sunday thronged the 13th Sharjah Children’s Festival (SCRF), which concluded after its 12-day run at Expo Centre Sharjah.
Workshops, games and other activities for children took centre stage, while visitors shopped for last-day bargains on books.
Visiting from London, bibliotherapist Ella Berthoud spoke about her book she has co-authored with Susan Elderkin, titled The Story Cure.
While The Story Cure is a manual for grown-ups to help their children with issues they face in various phases of their lives – such as the “superhero phase” or teenage – and makes book suggestions for each, there is The Novel Cure by the duo to treat ailments from depression to apathy to shyness in adults.
‘Prescription’ of books
She calls bibliotherapy an art and not a science, though it involves giving a book ‘prescription’ after studying what a client likes to read or what is happening in their lives. “Like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, a brilliant story can help you escape from your everyday life,” she noted, adding that reading for six minutes every day is equal to meditating for one hour as it slows down heart rate and breathing and transports you into a different state of being.
The painter-cum-therapist traced the origin of bibliotherapy to ancient Greeks who built theatres next to hospitals, while the advent of novels in the 18th century saw the ‘calm and soothing’ works by Jane Austen, ‘with a certain English sensibility’ being used in the therapy of mentally scarred soldiers during the Second World War.
“The stories you read as a child stays with you forever. That’s why it is important to read with children as much as you can,” she advised her listeners, adding that reading helps create a bubble with the author of the story. She also urged them to set a time and read aloud to their spouses, as it can be a magical experience. Recommending audio books, which as a multitasker she listens to a lot, the author also demonstrated how she read a book while exercising on the hula hoop for 20 minutes.
She recommended that every family agree among themselves to switch off Wi-Fi for a certain time every day and read books, finding a reading nook for the purpose.
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Blending tech with books
Meanwhile, three children’s educators have highlighted the importance of blending science and technology in children’s books during a discussion titled ‘Pages of Science’.
Award-winning STEM-friendly picture books author, Shanda McCloskey; children’s book writer Dr Fadia Daas; and Emirati poet and novelist Asmaa Al Zarouni, discussed how books integrated with modern teaching methodologies stimulate creativity during a panel session moderated by Layla Mohammed.