There is no doubt that when designing the programme for the new edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair, children and young people have been more than present. Every day, there are numerous activities aimed at this public, not only with the aim of making them love books and become great readers, but also so that they can learn, have fun, exchange experiences and become interested in the world of the humanities and sciences.
Children and young people, as well as having the opportunity to meet and get to know national and international authors and influencers, also have the chance to participate in numerous workshops, very didactic and active, in which boredom is not a problem and in which they become participants and protagonists. To listen, yes, but also to feel part of that world of grown-ups, of that future they will have to choose, so that logic and imagination, reason and creativity are also mixed together.
In a very specific corner of Hall 7, the little ones have their meeting place. Every day, with the help of different instructors, they learn by playing, which is the best way to show interest in things. A world full of magic and dreams to transmit knowledge.
Planting flowers, painting a picture with watercolours on small easels, learning how a volcano works, discovering the universe, feeling the wind, getting to know the characteristics of a racing car, seeing how animated films are made, turning boxes or cardboard into small theatres, use Lego pieces to see how engineering works, tell stories, create fictional characters, get closer to the future to see what science is capable of doing, observe the influences of the wind or the cycles of life, delve into robotics, feel music, become aware of the importance of nature? All this and more is possible in this very special area, where, even if only for a few seconds, it is inevitable to want to return to childhood.
One of the most magical encounters experienced at this fair by this public was with the author of Geronimo Stilton, the Italian Elisabetta Dami. What child anywhere in the world does not know this little mouse journalist and his incredible stories? The fact that he has sold more than 182 million copies says it all. The author, who had a chat with Ida Zilio-Grandi, director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Abu Dhabi, enchanted the children, whom she said she wants to help to become better adults through the values she extols in her books, such as friendship and the environment. He also had an amusing companion: "Geronimo", the protagonist during these two weeks of one of the activities taking place at the fair.
And continuing with Italy - let us remember that it is the "Guest of Honour" country at this edition - we could not miss another of the most endearing and universal characters in its history: Pinocchio. Every day, the actress Elena Gaffuri becomes this doll and walks through corridors and pavilions to show this child who grew a nose every time he told a lie. A Pinocchio who is left spellbound when he comes across a white piano on which a dancer dances while the pianist plays a beautiful melody. Art, music, theatre... Magic.
And among the workshops already held, it was more than interesting to see the children using the Stop Motion Studio application on their tablets to create animations. An interactive workshop that has brought them closer to the visual world, the world of photography and creation; or making, in the "Heat up lab" workshop, a volcano to better understand how it works inside, what parts it has and why it expels fire and lava when it explodes. And continuing with fire, they have also learnt why a house catches fire and the role played by the materials used in its construction; or the beautiful world of candles...
All these workshops are given by Wakazoo, Fun robotics, Irina, Teatri Verde, Rokn Al Wanasa, Room 94...
Technologies do not go unnoticed either, neither the world of internet nor social networks, in fact, specific spaces have also been designed to talk about these topics. Thus, students can enjoy talks by experts and influencers in this field, such as the young Dana Shaban, who told them some secrets and tricks to improve their accounts and increase their followers: simple and direct language, proximity, presence, credibility...
These generations have already been born and raised in the digital age, with its advantages and disadvantages, but it is essential to introduce them to the need to use it correctly and to show them the dangers that it can entail. This topic is also addressed in some of the activities of this great literary showcase.
The students are also enjoying very interesting sessions with international writers such as the Indian writer Geetanjali Shree, winner of the International Booker Prize for her work "Tomb od Sand", written in Hindi. She was joined by students from different schools in the United Arab Emirates.
The bestselling author Marie Lu, the English novelist and essayist Pico Iyer and the American cartoonist Lincoln Peirce, among others, will also take part in different meetings, a great opportunity for these youngsters to talk and exchange concerns and curiosities with them.
And let's not forget the tour of the stands of the 2,213 publishers from 95 countries, where they can find all kinds of books and authors, many of them specialising in children's and young people's literature. The success of the Japanese stand is curious, probably due to the great attraction of their manga drawings.
There are still many days to go until the 41st edition of the Sharjah International Fair closes its doors, so children and young people will continue to enjoy a more than complete programme that proves that learning is not incompatible with having fun.