By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Al Ameri: ‘We Say to Children: ‘Follow Your Dreams’Having been the first to stage a major world book fair event during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic when its Sharjah International Book Fair drew 382,000 visitors in November, the Sharjah Book Authority‘s chairman Ahmed Al Ameri has announced that the 12th annual Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival will run May 19 to 29, with 385 children’s events, including workshops and plays.
In a statement made at a news conference late last week, Al Ameri said, “Sharjah Book Authority is committed to Sharjah’s cultural and development vision, based on advancing the new generations.
“Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival is an important pillar in our strategy that’s focused on instilling a love for the written word in children and adolescents, to build a knowledge-based community, and advance Sharjah’s comprehensive development goals.”
As Publishing Perspectives readers know, the children’s festival has become the second major event–after each autumn’s enormous international book fair–in Sharjah’s yearly cycle of literature-based events. It’s a special favorite of its royal patrons, the emirate’s ruler Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi and his wife, the Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi.
Al Ameri told journalists that this year’s program is geared toward using “innovative and interactive methods to create spaces where young generations of book lovers can once again come together to read and nurture their creativity in relative freedom after the extended periods of social distancing dictated by the pandemic.
“We promise a very special treat for children,” he said, “through the new edition of Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival and will ensure their well-being in accordance with the UAE’s safety protocols. We’re sure that the amazing activities we have lined up will encourage young participants to unleash and advance their skills.
“We say to our children: follow your dreams. With your imagination, we’ll create a wonderful future together.”
Khoula Al Mujaini, the general coordinator for the festival, has announced that this year’s theme is “For Your Imagination,” which “reflects Sharjah Book Authority’s vision and strategy to nurture young generations and raise their awareness of the fact that through imagination, creativity is unleashed and great inventions are born.
“Imagination gives art its meaning and forges the path to a glorious future.”
In terms of the obvious questions about safety, Sharjah’s police commander, major-general Saif Al Zari Al Shamsi, was at the news conference, as well. His police force plays a key role in making these in-person events are viable from a public-health standpoint at Sharjah’s huge exhibition hall complex.
Indeed, Al Shamsi was pictured in Arab world news reports in mid-October being injected with an early-available coronavirus vaccine, signaling to first responders across the region that they were to follow suit.
“Our participation” in the children’s reading festival, Al Shamsi said, “stems from our social responsibility and emulates the vision of the ruler of Sharjah,” Sheikh Sultan.
“Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival aims to pave the path for a brighter future for young generations, and it is our collective responsibility as institutions serving the public to partner in the success of this important event.”
And the numbers being discussed about this year’s festival are typically impressive.
With some 385 events for children during 11 days–the show runs 4 to 10 p.m. GST–there are at least 172 publishers registered at this writing to participate.
The Comics Corner alone is to have 132 activities running, and 27 authors are participating, representing 15 nations.
Illustration: A Ninth Exhibition
Of special interest, the show this year hosts the ninth iteration of the Sharjah Children’s Book Illustration Exhibition, which is coming in with 395 artists and illustrators represented from some 50 countries. Of those whose work is represented, 106 are artists from 15 Arab nations, and 289 are from 35 countries outside the Arab world.
The show also annual organizes a “Poetry Knight” literary competition under the auspices of the emirate’s family affairs council. That program will award its top winner with a purse of 3,000 UAE dirhams (US$816).
In support of visual content in Arabic books for children, a program called “Ufuq” will stage bookmakers at the show, providing financial support to participating illustrators, with publishers and illustrators also being supported in marketing and advertising. So far, the organizers say, 50 entries have arrived from Arabic publishing houses as well as from Emirati, Arab, and international illustrators from 15 countries including Italy, Germany, Mexico, Argentina, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan and Iraq.
In reference to moving children and families through the exhibition, the program’s organizers write, “The festival will strictly follow all COVID-19 preventive measures in line with UAE safety protocols, with an inclusive plan that includes daily sanitizing of the venue’s halls and common areas, thermal scanning at all access points, and placement of hand sanitizer stations across the venue.
“Use of face masks and following physical distancing rules will be mandatory.”
More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.