SHARJAH: Over 12 days, the 14th edition of the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF) took more than 122,000 visitors of all age groups and backgrounds on a journey to new worlds of learning and entertainment. The Expo Centre Sharjah was transformed into a platform of creativity, arts, and culture, providing over 1,300 hours of educational activities for more than 122,000 visitors, including children, youth, parents, students, artists, and writers. SCRF’s theme of “Train your Brain” enabled visitors of all ages to embark on a 12-day journey of discovery, exploring new worlds of imagination and learning.
Aligned with the vision of Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah and under the direction of Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, SCRF 2023, organized by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) embodied Sharjah’s objective of empowering future generations, honing their skills, and unleashing their potential. With a wide range of activities, panel discussions, and workshops in arts, sports, technology, illustration, and music, the festival offered a rich and diverse program designed to inspire, entertain, and educate.
Dr. Al Qasimi has taken concrete steps to further SCRF’s efforts in promoting children’s literature. In a generous gesture, he has allocated AED 2.5 million towards the purchasing of books from publishers participating in the festival, cementing SCRF’s commitment to fostering a love for reading and learning among the youth.
The festival hosted 141 publishers from around the world and 457 guests from 66 countries including Japanese attendees, such as: Shaw Kuzki, who is a second-generation A-bomb survivor from Hiroshima & received her MA from Sophia University and is the author of a number of books in Japan and Yoshiko Watanabe, a Japanese manga artist, illustrator and animator who worked from 1963 to 1972 in Mushi Production with Osamu Tezuka for the creation of Astroboy, Kimba the White Lion, Princess Knight, Rocky Joe, and Bem, who delivered an impressive 1,732 engaging workshops and sessions showcasing their latest works in the children’s literary scene. SCRF 2023 has proven to be a resounding success, demonstrating the power of literature in shaping young minds and providing a platform for creative expression and cultural exchange.
The emirate also played host to the second edition of the Booksellers Conference, a gathering of 383 book distributors hailing from 69 countries around the world. The conference was a vibrant forum for the exchange of ideas and insights into the ever-changing landscape of book distribution, as well as an opportunity for delegates to explore fresh avenues in new markets.
The conference provided a platform for frank discussions on the realities of the book distribution ecosystem, as well as an opportunity for like-minded individuals to come together and chart a path forward in this dynamic industry. With so many accomplished distributors in attendance, the event was a prime venue for the sharing of best practices, as well as an occasion for networking and forging new partnerships.
Commenting on the success and direction of the festival, Khoula Al Mujaini, General Coordinator of SCRF said: “Empowering children is an extremely vital pillar in the development of Sharjah, and by supporting as well as providing platforms for these future leaders we are proactively implementing the visionary leadership of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and the directives of his wife, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs. The focus of this festival is on investing in new generations in order to build cohesive communities and nations capable of fulfilling their potential.”
In this context, Al Mujaini emphasizes that SCRF has established itself as an event that brings together all those concerned with children, their culture, and knowledge. The festival, she notes, is a platform for generating new ideas and mechanisms to raise children’s awareness and channel their energies. Indeed, SCRF reflects the Sharjah Book Authority’s vision to promote everything that contributes to forming the minds and personalities of knowledge-hungry and inquisitive children.
Al Mujaini also underscored that the festival’s activities are carefully designed to suit the interests of its visitors, to influence parents, and to encourage them to adopt a sustainable approach to raising their children’s awareness and guiding them to sources that hone their talents throughout the year. “The festival’s emphasis on a reading culture, which underpins its very name, is an ongoing task that everyone shares in adopting. This means not only encouraging reading books but also recognizing children’s interests and providing everything that enhances their love for various arts, sciences, and knowledge,” she stated.
Over the course of 12 remarkable days, the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival held an impressive 946 events led by 25 guests hailing from 10 countries. The events included an array of workshops for children, covering diverse fields such as arts, sports, science, and technology. The festival also featured a dazzling line-up of 136 theatre performances, roaming shows, and acrobat and music concerts. These events were brought to life by a talented troupe of 16 guests from 16 different countries, each adding their unique flair to the cultural extravaganza.
Among the many highlights of the festival were the captivating performances of Masaka Kids Africana, a popular children’s show with a substantial social media following. With a reputation for delivering inspiring and uplifting performances on stages worldwide, Masaka Kids Africana truly shone at SCRF. Their performances were a testament to the festival’s commitment to promoting the arts and culture for young minds and inspiring the next generation of creatives.
One of the highlights of the festival was a theatrical production titled ‘Alone at Home’, a collaborative production between SBA, Nujum from the UAE, and Kuwaiti Panther Media Production, featuring talented Emirati and Kuwaiti actors. In addition, the festival’s diverse agenda includes the Urdu and Hindi comedy play Akbar the Great Nahi Rahe, a testament to the emirate’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity.
The cultural extravaganza also welcomed 68 distinguished guests from 21 countries, comprising a dynamic group of artists, writers, and creators who led engaging panel discussions tackling some of the most pressing issues confronting the world today. Attendees also had the opportunity to attend sessions aimed at developing communication skills for children, nurturing their creative and intellectual potential, and unleashing their innovative capabilities.
The festival featured a smorgasbord of activities that appealed to visitors of all ages. The festival’s comprehensive programming included 323 comic-centred events, 72 Social Media Station experiences, and 30 culinary activities at Cookery Corner. Meanwhile, the Sharjah Exhibition for Children’s Book Illustrations offered a variety of engaging workshops and training sessions.
Beyond the festival’s immersive activities, esteemed institutions and government agencies were among those who contributed to the festival’s resounding success. Collaborating with the Sharjah Book Authority, these entities organized exciting events, engaging reading sessions, and competitive activities that garnered widespread public interest and attendance. The festival’s extensive reach was also felt through its coverage across numerous local, Arab, and international media platforms.