Words by: Hajra Khan
Images courtesy: Munfarid media
Described as “Sharjah’s gift to the world” by Ahmad Al Ameri, the chairman of Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF) is certainly a huge gift wrapped in a world of fun, delight and learning for the young members of the society. 10 days of activity, amazement and creativity at the Expo Centre Sharjah, the 10th edition of the SCRF was inaugurated by His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, the UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.
Following the festival theme “Your Future Just a Book Away”, as 134 local and foreign publishers, and 286 authors, poets and other literary guests join to add colors to this outstanding cultural festival, with over 50,000 children are being led through some 2,600 events and activities spanned over 11 days of the festival. SCRF 2018 offers a series of interactive and creative activities, sessions and workshops for the young learners under the main theme of Kids Activities, Cultural Programs, Social Media Café, Cultural Café, Kids’ Creative Café as well as Cookery Corner. The event further comprises many distinctive features including 3D Books workshop, Pop-up Books Exhibitions, Future Machine Exhibition, SCRF mascots and a cooking competition called “Little Chef” for children aged from 6-10 and 11-16 years.
Sheikh Sultan personally toured the different displays, workshops and exhibition halls adorned with a vast collection of printed as well as digital publications and learning materials by local, regional and international publishing houses and organizations. During his visit, he also viewed and appreciated the Children’s Books Illustrations, where 104 illustrators contributed their 355 artworks from 32 countries, including 12 Emirati and 29 illustrators from other Arab countries.
Sheikh Sultan commended the illustrators for their contributions in capturing children’s imagination to help develop their interest in reading. Illustrators that stood out receiving exhibition awards from Sheikh Sultan were Rasa Jansiawiskit (Lithuania) with first prize, Yang Park (South Korea) with second position and ranking third was Mariana Pedraza hailing from Mexico.
Further at the books exhibition the SCRF Awards 2018 were awarded to authors with Dr. Ibrahim Shalabi and Sonia Al Nimr receiving the Arabic Young Adult Book Award, targeting children 13 to 17 years of age, for their books “Wasim Tours” and “Thunderbird” respectively, while the International Children’s Book Award was presented to Michelle Zilkoski as well as Mariam Saqr Al Qasimi for her book “Where the Letters Disappeared?”. Author Nahed Al Shawwa scored the award for the Best Arabic Children’s Book (age group 4 – 12 years) for her book “One Dream or Two”. The Sharjah Police Science Academy also received an award for their work for the visually impaired children.
This year the SCRF features specialized spaces not much different from labs for children’s activities aimed at instilling a deeper sense of interactive exchange with kids. The children have the opportunity to experience several different learning techniques meant to provoke creative interest in them and develop it further with the help of innovative approaches. For instance, at the Future Machine Exhibition, children are being familiarized with new age digital models and replicas developed on the principles of artificial intelligence whereas the Fun Robotics Centre introduces them to stimulating workshops to help children as well as adults develop their knowledge and skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mechanics.
Then there is the 3D Books Exhibition that brings back the ancient art of pop-up books to children filling their minds with wonder and, the 3D art workshop held by Italian children’s book publisher Matteo Faglia further helps intrigue their imagination by teaching them how to turn a simple piece of paper into a 3D pop-up. While over at the Social Media Café, guiding about the use of new-world social media platforms, the children are being educated about their safe and useful application in daily life.
Moving on, children have some real amazement and excitement in store in the form of virtual reality and augmented reality interactive sessions at the VRXOne led by CEO, Dr. Sana Farid, Women of Wearables Middle East Ambassador. The workshop seems to attract a huge crowd of young as well as adult visitors as the children are guided through different Google Expeditions exploring the virtual worlds of biology, geology and world travels. Their excitement and interest piques up as their actions translate into response by virtual objects.
The festival also features a series of Arab and foreign theatrical performances combining education with entertainment including the virtual reality illusion show by famous Japanese visual artist Hara Hiroki, showcasing the latest in fusion magic and holographic illusionary art.
As the SCRF 2018 continues to go on capturing the attention of the youth, enlightening them on the importance of book reading and the various creative and innovative conventional and modern learning techniques, the event has still a lot to offer over the next few days promising great excitement, entertainment and learning.
About author: Hajra Khan is a former marketing professional and currently an article writer/ blogger. Writing has always been a passion with her and she has now been penning down her work for over 5 years for corporate sector. Hajra has a keen interest in the development of academic world as well as constructive growth of technological and corporate sector. She is of the opinion that both these sectors possess potential for huge progress via the use of innovative technologies such as Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence. Hajra is determined to make her contributions in the development of these sectors through her research, writing and recommendations.