Pakistan’s third Children’s Literature Festival was held in Peshawar, capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from November 14 to 15, 2012. The Festival is proof of many uplifting aspects of Pakistan today. It aims to encourage children and adults to help with the revival of books and to expand learning experiences beyond the classroom walls. Children’s Literature Festivals are a platform of hope for the children of Pakistan. Though Pakistan faces significant challenges—huge disparities in opportunities, particularly for the rural poor and girls, poor quality education, low enrollment and completion rates, high drop-out rates and low levels of transition to secondary education—the Children’s Literature Festival signals that change, however slowly, is happening.
The Children’s Literature Festival is a place for children, young people and adults to seek positive means of self-expression through reading, illustrating, writing a book review, debating and more. The Festival hosts panel discussions and guides children on how to use library resources and supplementary readers, all with the aim of developing an interest in reading amongst Pakistan’s children.
The Children’s Literature Festival 2011, held in Lahore, was the first literature festival for the children of Pakistan. It was a great success, with an overwhelming response from children of all ages and backgrounds. The second Festival was held in Quetta, Balochistan in 2012. With the third held in Peshawar this year in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, the Festival is building a truly national footprint.
The Festival aims to promote reading, creativity and critical thinking among children. So far the festivals have showcased new ways of learning to thousands of children, teachers, and parents.
The Children’s Literature Festivals also bring together writing, publishing, literacy, and education communities to emphasize the joy of reading. The success of the Festival owes much to these communities and the contribution they bring through sharing their experiences, resources and providing opportunities for children to learn and engage.
As well as physical inequities in Pakistan’s educations system—such as nearly non-existent school libraries—challenges also exist in how relevant the curriculum is. A lack of learner centered approaches to teaching is common. The Children’s Literature Festival offers a platform to create spaces for new ways of thinking and interacting, creating cultures of tolerance and critical thinking. In the long term the Children’s Literature Festival aims to build momentum around reading and education (particularly for girls) but also, to encourage educators to select books that are more thoughtful and that promote critical thinking. Professional debate about the choice of books in relation to quality education is of great importance.
We hope the Festival will become a sustainable national movement to promote libraries, reading, creativity and critical thinking among the children of Pakistan.