World

SHARJAH – The role of children’s literature in promoting understanding and peace was highlighted by a multicultural panel of children’s authors and illustrators at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF 2017) on Tuesday.

The participants unanimously agreed that historically, children’s literature has always been used as a teaching tool with children, as it has the potential for teaching concepts in an educative yet non-dictative way.

The panel, comprising Emirati author, Abdul Rida Al Sijwani; Fauzia Minallah, award-winning children’s author and artist from Pakistan; and Cigdem Kaplangi, Turkish writer and editor, laid special emphasis on the fact that multicultural literature for children is the need of the hour given the present-day scenario where children are exposed to much violence and unrest around them.

“Children’s literature offers subtle and effective ways to promote the interaction of young people across ethnic lines. Stories can generate an attitude that does not see race as a barrier, but as a natural identity contributing to the beauty of our world,” remarked Sijwani.

Speaking about extremely pleasant experiences during her school visits in Sharjah, where Indian and Pakistani children are receiving education under the same roof and playing on the same grounds, Fauzia observed: “I have been working with children for two decades, promoting tolerance and pluralism through my work and student exchange programmes in India and Pakistan, which is a herculean challenge, and now even harder. The way the two communities coexist with each other in the UAE is very pleasing to see.”

“In my writing, I do not really start off with the aim of sending a very obvious message, because I have noticed that children are quick to understand the difference between an academic writing and literature. It is the creative process of writing that excites me more, where I insert certain values in my story in the subtlest ways. Children’s literature is a powerful tool to spread the message of peace as children do not feel like they are being lectured in these books,” she said.

“It is important to focus on fantastic elements, and hide values of tolerance and understanding in between the lines, so children have fun learning these values, naturally,” said Cigdem stressing on the importance of using literature as a messenger of peace,” Cigdem added.

All panellists stressed on the importance of visual literacy – using colourful and attractive images to capture children’s imaginations and teaching them values of peace and appreciation for diversity.

Running from 19 to 29 April at Expo Centre Sharjah, the ninth edition of SCRF is being held under the theme ‘Discover Beyond’ and features a line-up of 2,093 activities. A total of 123 exhibitors from across the world are displaying their literature-related products and services at the event.