Sultan Al Qasimi opens 6th Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival
His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, opened the 6th Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF 2014), which is taking place from 15-25 April at Expo Centre Sharjah.
The 11-day Festival is being attended by 124 publishing houses from 17 countries, and more than 175 Arab and foreign men of letters, writers, intellectuals, artists, and academicians will take part in the 1,694 events planned during the festival.
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was attended by Sheikh Khaled Bin Sultan Bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Urban Planning Council, Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Department of Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Salem bin Abdul Rahman bin Salem Al Qasimi, Director of the Office of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Sheikh, His Highness Sheikh Sultan listened to a welcome song performed by the children of Al Barary Kindergarten who expressed their joy over the opening of the Festival, which is the largest event dedicated to children and offers them a rich programme of educational and entertaining activities as well as intellectual and cultural symposia.
As soon as he arrived, His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi visited the 1001 Inventions Exhibition, the largest global touring exhibition, which highlights a thousand years of scientific and cultural achievements during the Golden Age of Muslim Civilisation. The interactive exhibition is being held on the sidelines of the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival till May 15. His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan listened to a presentation by Ahmed Salim, Producer and Director of 1001 Inventions, who lauded the facilities offered by Sharjah. Salim underlined that the exhibition, which has attracted more than 4 million visitors from all over the world, is being organised at this particular time, to coincide with the Emirate’s celebrations marking the selection of Sharjah as Capital of Islamic Culture.
Later in the day, His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah opened the third Sharjah Exhibition for Children’s Book Illustrators. With the participation of 96 professional artists from around the world, this exhibition has become one of the leading art shows dedicated to showcasing professional children’s book illustrations on a global level. His Highness Sheikh Sultan then awarded the winners of the exhibition’s six cash prizes worth a total of $21,000. Egyptian Illustrator Walild Taher came in the first place and was awarded a cash prize of $8,000, followed by Mexican illustrator Marianna Felanoyva, who won a cash prize of $6,000, while Italian Francesca Fenyaga came in the third place with a cash prize of $4,000. The winners of the three incentive prizes of $1000 each included Andria Pikllar from Slovenia, and Leire Salaberria and Yolanda Mosquera from Spain.
Following the honouring ceremony, His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah visited a number of the stands of participating publishing houses and cultural organisations. He visited the stand of the Department of Culture and Information and listened to an explanation of the Department’s publications. He then headed to the Al Qasimi Publications stand which included his various publications. His Highness also visited the stand of the Ministry of Education and found out more about their effort in supporting and encouraging children to read and to research using unique and modern methods. His Highness emphasized the importance of encouraging children to create their own books and to help them in creating ideas that are in-line with their wide imagination.
His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah also visited the American Center for Press and Culture in the UAE and visited the Sharjah Baby-Friendly Emirate Campaign and was introduced to the new application that was launched by the campaign targeting mothers which he praised. He then visited the Book Winner and Best Sellers stand, the Arab Scientific Publisher’s Stand and the Emirates Publishers Association.
His Highness also visited: the UAE Board on Books for Young People, the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature and on a board in the stand His Highness wrote: “To the participants of the Etisalat award for Children’s Literature, we invite you to take part, we wish you safety and hope that we receive you with much love and respect in Sharjah.” His Highness also stopped at the stand of the Knowledge Without Borders (KWB) project, and he gifted them a children’s library under the banner of Sharjah, the Capital of Islamic Culture 2014 and he ordered that the library would be placed in the public library in Sharjah so that it may serve the largest number of children.
On the final leg of his tour, Sheikh Sultan stopped at the workshop hall where he listened to a presentation by Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri on the 875 events, including educational lectures, training workshops, entertaining activities, theatrical performances and book reading sessions. These events are designed to impart vital social values to children, develop their talents and artistic, mental and sports skills, and encourage them to take up productive hobbies.
His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah ordered that AED 2 million would be spent to support the participating publishing houses and for the purchase of children’s books for schools and nurseries. The opening was also attended by Hi Excellency Mr. Abdul Rahman Bin Ali Al Jarwan, adviser at the Emiri Diwan, His Excellency Ahmad bin Mohammad Al Madfa’a, Chairman of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Major General Hamid Mohammed Al Hadidi, Director General of Sharjah Police, Abdullah Bin Mohamed Al Owais, Head of Sharjah Department of Culture and Information, Jamal Al Tarifi advisor at the Ruler’s office, His Excellency Abdulaziz Hamad Taryam, Etisalat’s CEO Advisor & General Manager, North East Emirates, His Excellency Mohammed Diab Al Mousa, Emiri Court Advisor, Dr. Amr Abdel-Hamid. Special Advisor to His Highness for Higher Education and Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Director of the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF).
Speaking on the occasion, Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, SIBF Director, said, “Thanks to the directives and support of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi Wife of the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival has succeeded in putting itself on the calendar of the most important and prominent cultural, educational and entertaining events dedicated to children. This is a natural result of its rich cultural programme and entertaining activities as well as intellectual symposia and discussions that contribute to developing children’s culture and their tastes, talents, and hobbies.”
Al Ameri emphasised, “This year’s edition was the largest ever and that the Festival was expecting a noticeable growth in the number of visitors, especially with the organising of the 1001 Inventions exhibition, which is being held to mark the celebrations of Sharjah as Capital of Islamic Culture, as well as the organisation of the Sharjah Exhibition for Children’s Book Illustration, which saw an impressive increase in the number of entrants and submissions.”
Al Ameri noted, “Tthe Kids Café, which is being held for the first time, is sure to make a good impression due to its role in preparing and training children to present and moderate seminars and lectures, thereby building their self-confidence and enhancing their self-esteem, as well as helping them connect with their peers and the surrounding community, because the programme will allow children to freely express their opinions about issues that concern them.”
Hind Abdullah Lenaid, Head of Exhibitions at Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) and General Coordinator of the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, thanked all organisations and bodies that collaborated with the Festival Management in organising such a huge number of events and activities. She revealed that the expansion of this year’s scope of events is aimed at adding new topics that help develop children’s skills and abilities and help them better know their rights and duties, as well as at developing their artistic and creative skills while bringing smile to the children’s faces through a fun-filled programme during the festival.
The 6th Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival features a diverse range of 1,694 events, including the Kids Programme, the Cultural Programme, the Cookery Corner, the Cultural Café and the Kids Café, in addition to the 1001 Inventions Exhibition, and the Sharjah Exhibition for Children’s Book Illustrations. The Kids Programme encompasses 875 fun activities for children, including art workshops dedicated to developing children’s art talents by engaging them in hands-on training to learn how to draw on sand, as well as about mosaic art, ornaments and decorations, Arabic calligraphy, and the art of paper folding. It furthermore includes hands-on training aimed at helping children stimulate and improve their memories and develop their cognitive skills through chess, mathematics, and logic.
The Festival also comprises a number of lectures on children’s rights and how to avoid child abuse and report abuse to the relevant authorities. Other events include theatrical performances, film screenings, reading sessions, creative activities, and discussions covering various environmental, heritage, health, and scientific topics. The Cultural Programme will feature 30 symposia and panel discussions to help enrich children’s literature. They will be moderated by researchers, intellectuals, writers, artists, media executives, and academicians from a number of Arab and foreign countries.
Among these panel discussions are; ‘Culture and Development of Future Children’, ‘The Role of Internet in Bringing up Children’, ‘Children’s Songs and Shaping of Identity’, ‘Popular Games and National Personality’, ‘The Traditional/Folk Tale in the Age of Internet’, ‘Animations-Specifications and Features’, ‘Laughter Therapy: the Importance of Laughter for Children’, and ‘Children’s Stories between Heritage and Scientific Fiction’.
The Festival will allow children to learn culinary skills and how to prepare healthy food through “The Cookery Corner”, which will be presented by eight top celebrity chefs and nutrition experts, most notably famous British chef Leila Fanelli whose products are sold at Harrods Store in London, and Will Torrent, renowned Pastry Chef and Chocolatier and winner of the Craft Guild of Chefs Young Chef of the Year.
The list of celebrity chefs also include Bahraini chef and writer Mona Al Hassan, Australian Masterchef Callum Hann, who is the author of “The Starter Kitchen”, and American Chef Monica Bedi, who wrote a number of books about spices, and British nutritionist and diet expert Gene Tchichi. The programme of the Kids Café, which will be held for the first time, will allow children to become presentation stars as they will present a number of cultural seminars and discussions covering serious cultural, educational and literary topics, in addition to poetry and story reading sessions to the audience.
A total of 33 boys and girls will participate in this programme who will present 20 symposia and lectures throughout the Festival’s 11 days. The symposia will include the themes ‘The Right of Children to Read”, “My Heritage is My Culture”, “Creative Personality”, and ‘How to Write a Book’. Among the top Arab guests at this year’s Festival are Egyptian writer Amal Farah, a finalist in the UNESCO International Prize for Children’s Literature in the Service of Tolerance, Iraqi writer and poet Jalil Khazaal, Bahraini novelist Abdul Qader Aqeel, Egyptian writer and poet Samir Abdul Baqi, Syrian magazine editor Bayan Al Safadi (of Usama magazine), Egyptian Writer, novelist and playwright Mahmoud Qassim.
Besides Arab authors, a number of top foreign writers and illustrators are participating in the Festival, most notably artist and writer Andy Stanton, writer of the ‘Mr Gum’ series and the winner of the Red House Children’s Book Award, and Fawzia Gilani-williams, expert of Children’s Literature at Britain’s University of Worcester, and author of 40 Islamic story books for children, as well as British Tony De Saulles, illustrator of the Horrible Science series.
A total of 14 UAE organisations are participating in organising a range of the events and activities held during the festival. They include the Department of Culture and Information in Sharjah, the Sharjah Museums Department, Sharjah Educational Zone, Sharjah Police, Sharjah Chess Cultural Club, the Department of Social Services-Sharjah, and the Sheikha Shamma bint Mohammed bin Khalid Al Nahyan Foundation in Al Ain.
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Aliaa Al Ori