We were invited to attend the Sharjah Children’s reading festival in Sharjah (UAE) on 30th April and 1-2 May 2015. It was a very different and very exciting event.
The festival was huge. Lasting for eleven days, by three days before the end an estimated 60 000 people had attended – and many, many of those were children. School groups trailed obediently throughout the halls and on weekends whole families presented themselves at the booths devoted to story, craft, cooking, music and – above all – reading.
Lesley Beake of CBN presented six workshops over the three days she attended and had a chance to meet hundreds of children from a very different environment from the one where CBN normally works.
Some things are the same everywhere. Love of stories and a desire to tell them, and write them, are universal. Many more children arrived than the allotted seating and cheerfully sat three to a chair and listened with absorbed interest to stories from Africa – about children who lead very different lives from their own.
It proved impossible to do the planned group writing (due mostly to spirited competition from a group of charming children singing and dancing traditional Belarus folk songs and stories!) They were wonderful, although the volume levels from their amplifiers made discussion fairly difficult. But the children enthusiastically made word clouds around the advertised topic of Friends – and had a lot to contribute on the subject. We talked, and wrote about people as friends and – of course – books as friends.
CBN would like to thank the organizers of the festival for hosting Lesley and to the Sharjah Department of Culture who sponsored flights and accommodation.