In the heart of the city, at the Arts Council of Pakistan-Karachi, under the vibrant banners of the 89th Pakistan Learning Festival (PLF), Seekho Seekhao Pakistan and Idara e Taleem o Aagahi (ITA), in partnership with Sindh Education and Literacy Department and the Arts Council, hosted a vibrant festival that was founded by ITA’s CEO Baela Raza Jamil back in November 2011. For children and teachers who attended it for the first time on November 7 and 8, 2023, it was nothing short of enchantment, as 15 spellbinding storybooks in Urdu were unveiled.
These original Urdu storybooks were developed with the support and intensive training provided by Room to Read, a global group touching the lives of 32 million children across 21 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The Pakistan Literacy Project (PLP) implemented by ITA in collaboration with Room to Read is dedicated to establishing libraries for reading in multiple languages including production of attractive local storybooks for children at the foundational level (ages 3-10).
Renowned author, artist and coordinator of book production at ITA, Rumana Husain, along with Baela Jamil, invited the Minister of Education and Literacy, Ms. Rana Hussain, from the Government of Sindh, to launch the 15 storybooks and read out excerpts from the books.
These books, born from the realm of imagination, are published by the National Book Foundation (NBF), Alif Laila Book Bus Society (ALBBS), and Maqbool Books, under the umbrella of ITA’s Pakistan Literacy Project (PLP). But they are more than mere storybooks; they are the portals through which young minds embark on adventures, where dreams are kindled and curiosity finds its wings. Each narrative is a rich tapestry, woven with the threads of local culture and timeless wisdom.
Crafted with the utmost care and affection, these books are a gift for the younger generation of Pakistan, as Ms. Rana Hussain passionately attested while reciting the captivating story, Ramu Kahan Gaya written by Shabnum Gul, who came from Hyderabad to witness the launch of her story based in the desert of Tharparkar, brought to life by the Lahore-based Amna Kazmi’s artistry. It is published by ALBBS.
Over 30,000 bright-eyed children and their dedicated teachers attended the two-day festival. Young hearts and minds were set free to explore, to dream, and, most importantly, to learn.
There were ‘Story Walks’ for three other PLP books, Chutki, published by NBF, Katran Kahani published by Maqbool Books, and Dhoondo Dhoondo Sohni Dharti by ALBBS. Thousands of children thronging the venue, enjoyed walking along the large panels displayed prominently, and reading the stories. Cutouts of the main characters from the 15 books and images of all the cover pages in the shape of buntings also adorned the venue.
Karachi-based Abeer Kasiri conducted a session for children based on the story Oon ka Jadu by Farah Shah - a story from the snow mountains of Chitral. The story was illustrated by Kasiri. Mishal Khan conducted a similar session for Rang Barangay Daant for which she had created the pictures. Additionally, perched on a beautifully decorated low platform, Iza Ramzan, a library coach from Lahore for PLP, used the 15 books for an almost nonstop storytelling session on both days, as each group of her keen young listeners wanted to hear more and more.
Rumana Husain conducted a session with famous poet Attiya Dawood who read the story Jasoos Uqaab published by NBF, and Shabnum Gul read out ALBBS’s Aha! Bada Mazaydaar! to an audience full of children and teachers inside the Ahmed Shah Auditorium. Pages of each of the five aforementioned books were projected on large SMD screens to enhance the children’s visual experience.
Celebrated in November annually, the Universal Children’s Day is a powerful reminder that protecting and promoting the rights of our children is of utmost importance. Beautiful books - not one or two, but fifteen - can be the best gift to our children. 6000 copies of each of the 15 titles will be distributed across the country to schools and children from the public sector, schools supported by the education foundations, CSOs and public libraries for children supported by Room to Read.
In this educational endeavor, Joel Bacha, Sr. Director, Program Operations, and Mahesh Pathirathna, Asia Regional Program Manager, Room to Read, delivered their spirited messages of congratulations to ITA, the vital government partners from Punjab, Sindh and the Federal Ministry including the Textbook & Curriculum Boards and the National Curriculum Council, all the writers, illustrators, editors and publishers involved in this grand production for the children of Pakistan.