Civil society organization Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), Centre for Education and Consciousness, organized a daylong festival celebrating Libraries and books in schools at the Children Library Complex (CLC), Lahore in collaboration with the School Education Department (SED), Government of Punjab.

24 incredible open libraries have been established under the Pakistan Literacy Project (PLP); the best practices were shared on Tuesday.

The festival celebrated the 24 dynamic libraries set up in the primary sections of government schools in Lahore (12) and Bahawalpur (12) districts where more than 1200 books from 19 publishers have been made available to support the joy of learning and back to school campaigns during the COVID-19 pandemic. These modern libraries established under PLP, in partnership with Room to Read and in collaboration with SED Punjab, help children connect with literature while also promoting reading habits among them.

The libraries for learning festival was well acknowledged by the Chief Guest, Minister for Social Welfare and Bait-ul-Maal Punjab Syed Yawar Abbas Bukhari and Special Guest SED Special Secretary Dr. Suhail Shahzad and ITA Chairperson Dr. Narmeen Hamid. They appreciated ITA and CLF’s efforts in providing modern open libraries as a wonderful avenue to the children of Pakistan for improving their reading, learning and creativity. “A free mind builds the foundation of a strong society. Schools are our centers of excellence; children should be encouraged to read and write stories,” Provincial Minister Bukhari said.

The SED Special Secretary also requested the teachers to not make the children just read books. “Make them read stories and teach them the art of storytelling. They will eventually be able to write books,” he said.

Member Provincial Assembly (MPA) Saadia Sohail Rana was also present along with other dignitaries who thoroughly enjoyed the read aloud, paired shared readings sessions as well as theatre and puppets, magic show, arts and crafts and renditions of children’s songs by the legendary musician Sohail Rana.

With many storytellers including the famous actor Nadia Jamil, Atif Badar from Karachi and Vicky Zhuang Yi-Yin from Olmopolo Media, the day saw the grounds and halls packed with children actively participating along with their teachers in parallel sessions across six locations of the venue and the grounds. More than 3000 children (5-18 years) enjoyed interactive learning, the joy of accessible innovative libraries along with activities for climate change and environmental preservation.

The day began with Sanjan Nagar School choir singing the beautiful CLF Anthem ‘Humain Kitab Chahiye’ written by Zehra Nigah and composed by Rakae Jamil;theatre performance on storybooks ‘Kaun Badshah Banana Chahta hai’ and ‘Children of Light’; and the launch of PLP/CLF Books in Braille in collaboration with SightSavers.

Speaking on the occasion, ITA CEO Baela Raza Jamil said, “The magic of promoting books and learning through children’s learning festivals have been spreading across Pakistan for a decade. Over 200 people and institutions have produced this magic for ALL children, teachers and families. CLF is about festivals, 50 publications, Young Author Awards and much more while PLP promotes the joy of learning and reading through libraries. We are absolutely delighted to be in partnership with Room to Read for adapting books in Urdu, setting up model libraries in schools where children, teachers and families can benefit from beautiful books so well aligned to learning, literacy, imagination and creativity.”

It was a day of showcasing the amazing government school teachers/headteachers who have transformed into great storytellers. The event was especially designed to demonstrate some of the key good practices in PLP libraries already underway where the key resource persons were the teachers themselves. In three out of six active spaces, the PLP teams/coaches and teachers remained actively engaged in storytelling of 28 Room to Read adapted books and arts and crafts activities. In other spaces, there were sessions on STEAM learning by ITA and CLC teams, theatre workshop by Olomopolo Media, puppet making workshop by Sanjan Nagar School, plantation workshop by Forest Department, an interactive tour of the Walled City of Lahore and a special session on Autism Awareness.

In the open space, there was an open mic session for children ‘Bol K Lub Azad Hain’ which provided a unique opportunity to the children to showcase their talent. Moreover, a special stall was set up by ITA along with Alif Laila Book Bus Society and CLF Kitab Gari to keep the children engaged in multiple interactive activities. The food and arts and crafts stalls were also a source of entertainment for the children throughout the day. The event closed with a thrilling musical performance by Jiill Band and rendition of ‘Allah Meri Aankhon Mein Phool Chunay Hum’, by Sanjan Nagar Choir- indeed lyrics and compositions support social emotional learning.

The Learning Libraries festival was a culmination of the inaugural of all 24 libraries established in Punjab SED schools, celebrating the power of beautiful books for improving literacy among young children; the intervention can be easily scaled up as a priority area for the government already earmarked in the SED’s policy, the New Deal 2018-2023.

Author

Arsalan Haider is a reporter at Academia Mag and has worked with leading national dailies and news channels. He tweets @arsalanhaider14

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