More than 1,400 activities planned during 12-day Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival

Ahmed SBA-1712239172460
Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, CEO of Sharjah Books Authority (SBA) briefing media about Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival at a press conference on Wednesday in Sharjah

Sharjah: More than 1,400 cultural, artistic, and edutainment activities by 190 guests from 25 countries will set the stage for the 15th edition of Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCF).

More than 470 publishers from 75 countries are expected to participate in the 12-day festival taking place from May 1 to 12 at the Expo Centre in Sharjah.

Organised by Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), the region’s largest event dedicated to nurturing the imaginations of young heroes, carries the theme ‘Once Upon a Hero’ this year.

The cultural agenda for SCRF 2024 as well as the details of the 3rd annual edition of the Booksellers Conference, which will take place in the lead up to SCRF on April 27-28, were announced during a press conference held at the SBA headquarters on Wednesday. The Booksellers Conference brings together booksellers, distributors, and publishers from the region and around the world for discussions of business issues and best practices.

First of its kind event

SBA will also organise the 2nd edition of the Sharjah Animation Conference (SAC), from May 1 — 5 in Expo Centre Sharjah, bringing together renowned animators, artists, creatives, thinkers and other industry leaders at this first of its kind event.

Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, CEO of SBA; Salem Al Ghaithi, Director of the Sharjah Broadcasting Authority; Khoula Al Mujaini, General Coordinator of SCRF; Mansour Al Hassani, Director of Publishers Services at SBA; Mohammed Al Amimi, Vice President of Business Partnerships and Customer Service, ‘Etisalat by e&’, in addition to cultural figures, and media representatives from the region, attended the press conference.

‘Children’s minds are beacons waiting to be ignited’

Speaking at the press conference, Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Amer stated: “Under the visionary leadership of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, alongside the invaluable support of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, the emirate has embraced a set of fundamental values dedicated to enriching the awareness and knowledge of children.

“We firmly believe that children’s minds are not mere receptacles for information but rather beacons waiting to be ignited. Drawing a crucial distinction between the two concepts, the former implies a child burdened with knowledge they may not comprehend how to apply, whereas the latter empowers them to envision clear paths, utilise their existing abilities, and continuously explore new horizons.”

Reflecting on the theme of SCRF 2024, Al Ameri emphasised the pivotal role of children’s reading in shaping future generations devoid of biased perspectives towards ideas, concepts, and individuals. Such generations are characterised by their inclination towards research, comprehension, and exploration. Consequently, individuals no longer resist the unfamiliar but rather embrace the opportunity to craft their own narratives, emerging as the ‘heroes’ or ‘protagonists’ of their unique journeys. This ethos rejects the notion of mere imitation or duplication, encapsulated in the festival’s theme, ‘Once Upon a Hero.’

Live telecast

Salem Al Ghaithi said: “Our television channels, radio stations, and digital media will dedicatedly cover, report and broadcast the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival in its entirety, including the opening ceremony, which will be televised live on Sharjah TV. ”

Reading is key

Khoula Al Mujaini, General Coordinator of SCRF-1712239174123
Khawla Al Mujaini, the General Coordinator of SCRF briefing media about Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival at a press conference on Wednesday in Sharjah
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Khawla Al Mujaini, the General Coordinator of SCRF, said: “The 15th edition of SCRF will unfold under the theme ‘Once Upon a Hero,’ to impress upon the influence that the written word has in sculpting the futures of our children. The act of reading can be easily likened to a journey into the depths of our own beings that ultimately ends in cultivating our imagination, forging our character and shaping our lives. Through this festival, we nurture generations who recognise the true potential of reading as the key to change and development. We are shaping young minds who strongly believe that they are the heroes of their own stories, capable of limitless creativity and innovation.”

Unique opportunities

Mansour Al Hassani, Director of Publishers Services at SBA, said: “We are proud to welcome 470 publishers, distributors, and booksellers from 75 countries to the 3rd edition. This sizeable global participation reflects on Sharjah’s leading role as a global hub for discussions for the culture and knowledge industry. Our conference will feature keynotes and speeches from 30 esteemed speakers and host 30 pavilions and platforms, fostering a vibrant exchange of ideas and strengthening cultural bonds.”

50 enlightening discussions

The SCRF 2024 cultural programme will highlight the importance of nurturing children’s communication skills and creativity, and delve into other significant debates during 50 enlightening discussions led by 71 esteemed guests from 25 countries. American best-selling author and illustrator Jerry Craft, American author Stacey Baer, Malaysian author and trainer Ying Ying Ng, and Georgian author Dr. Leah Shalvashvili are among the top global luminaries joining the festival.

The Arab world will be represented by distinguished figures such as Syrian academic Dr. Taleb Omran, Algerian scholar Dr. El Aid Jlouli, and Omani poet Wafaa Al Shamsi. The festival will also feature prominent cultural and literary figures from the UAE, including Aisha Batti Al Shamsi, Rashid Al Rahmani, and Nadia Al Najjar, fostering a rich exchange of ideas and celebrating the diversity of cultural expressions.

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1,400 children’s activities, theatre shows and performances

The 12-day cultural extravaganza boasts an agenda brimming with learning and excitement, spanning a wide range of topics including sustainability, fashion, crafts, music, and more, alongside 12 captivating performances, including theatrical productions and vibrant roaming shows, presented by 19 theatre companies and groups representing 12 countries, are some among several festival highlights.

Among the world-class productions that will be staged at the SCRF 2024 Theatre, are the Kuwaiti play “Your Choice” and “Hum Bhi Agar Bacche Hote” by Pakistani playwright Waseem Badami, which inject humour and creativity into real life situations, highlighting matters significant to children, young adults and their parents alike.

SCRF Comics and Cookery corners

At the festival, young visitors will have the opportunity to discover the vibrant world of comics through more than 132 activities, including workshops and panel discussions led by 31 creatives hailing from 4 countries. The agenda is brimming with engaging sessions, such as 3D Modelling and Animation, Character Creation, Comics Pop-Art, and Cosplay Helmets, inviting children to explore their creativity and artistic flair.

In addition, the popular Cookery Corner will be a hub of culinary delights, hosting 60 workshops and 36 live cooking sessions led by 12 renowned chefs and 25 experts from 12 countries. Among the distinguished chefs participating in the upcoming SCRF are Omari McQueen from the UK, Ren Behan from Poland, Nadita Iyer from India, and Zaynah Din from Pakistan, among others, promising a diverse and enriching gastronomic experience for all.

Sharjah Children’s Book Illustration Award

The 12th edition of the prestigious Sharjah Children’s Book Illustration Award, designed by SBA for SCRF, has received 507 entries from 48 countries this year, comprising 239 Arab participants and 186 international entrants. This edition of the award has introduced a new category dedicated to recognising talented young adults within the UAE. Additionally, the festival will honour winners of the Sharjah Audiobook Award, which received 49 entries, and the Books for Visually Impaired Children Award, which saw 7 submissions.

Poetry Knight Competition

During SCRF, the Poetry Knight competition will be held to encourage children and young adults to recite Arabic poetry in an engaging manner. The competition also focuses on training participants in public speaking and discovering the aesthetic aspects of the Arabic language, particularly in poetry. It includes three categories: the first for primary school students (grades 1 to 4), the second for middle school students (grades 5 to 8), and the third for high school students (grades 9 to 12). Poems will be selected for each category, and participants will recite them before jurors.

Sharjah Animation Conference

SCRF will host the 2nd edition of the Sharjah Animation Conference (SAC) from May 1-5, providing a platform for people to come together, exchange ideas, and create meaningful connections through 60 events, encompassing 30 workshops, 20 panel discussions, 5 talks, and 5 music concerts, led by 71 speakers from 12 countries. The conference features a rich programme presented by directors and artists from major global companies like Disney, Warner Bros and Sony.

30th anniversary of The Lion King

The conference has been chosen as the platform for a special celebration of Lion King, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Andreas Deja, the renowned animator/director whose contributions to animation have included several Disney leading or title characters, including ‘Scar’ from The Lion King, will premier his short film Mushka at the conference.

The conference will also facilitate networking between animators, creators and publishers, offering them a dedicated space to discuss the buying and selling of rights and other creative collaborations. Additionally, there will be a four-day intensive training course in collaboration with experts from the Aardman Academy.

Animation legends from the Arab and rest of the world

SAC 2024 will feature a host of professional artists and award-winning talents, including industry legends like Kristof Serrand, known for his distinguished and internationally nominated artworks, and John Pomeroy, the legendary director whose contributions have enriched cinema with works like Pocahontas and Fantasia 2000. Junichi Hayama, an artist and director with over 30 years of experience, is also participating. He is renowned for his work on Fist of the North Star and ‘One Piece Film: Red’.

Among the Arab participants are Dr. Mohamed Ghazala, a writer, director, producer, and Vice President of the International Animated Film Association; Islam Mazhar, Co-founder; and Ahmad Thabet, CCO/Cofounder at Samaka Studio.

Supportive collaboration from SCRF official partners

As long-time supporters of the festival, Etisalat by e & will participate as the official sponsor of SCRF 2024 and the Sharjah Broadcasting Authority assumes the role of official media partner, ensuring extensive coverage and promotion of the festival’s events and activities. Expo Centre Sharjah will once again serve as the strategic partner and venue host, providing a world-class platform for the festival.