The recent activity organised by the Oxford University Press at the Park Towers atrium in Karachi, Dosti Kitabon Sey, seemed like anything but an exercise in promoting reading, and coordinator Khaled Anam explained why it was so. “This was a blow of the trumpet to gather the media and announce the forthcoming event,” he said, appearing almost childish in his excitement about the mission to be carried out to “change mindsets.”
He is certainly the right choice to manage the event for children which goes on from June 8 to July 14. As a well-known composer who has worked extensively in children’s programming on television, last year Khaled also composed songs for children with EMI. Another feather in his cap is the Gripps Theatre for which he has written extensively and enacted plays for children as well.
“It is very important to break the indoctrination around us; that we need to do by promoting reading activities among children and bringing optimism in their lives,” he said while speaking to Images on Sunday.
At the event, Khaled invited children from three to 12 years and up on stage to recite poems or narrate stories of their choice. In return they received goody bags from the OUP. While children gradually warmed up to the concept, parents could be seen urging their kids to gather their wits and go on stage.
“My focus is the parents more than the children,” said Khaled. “They are the decision-makers as to where to take children and what to buy them or let them buy for themselves. Our elders need to start taking a genuine and keen interest in kids and lure them towards books. Only parents are capable of doing this.” Back to the event, there was no stopping their enthusiasm once the kids summoned up the courage to perform on stage.
Later, OUP MD Ameena Saiyid introduced the project in Urdu followed by a short speech by Goethe Institut Director Manuel Negwer who has worked extensively in promoting reading and children’s activities in Pakistan. More children were given a chance to perform once the speeches were over and prominent personalities such as Raju Jamil also spoke.
According to the coordinator, the event received an overwhelming response in the form of emails from parents among other indicators. The OUP outlets were reportedly flooded with parents’ queries as to how to gain membership, especially considering that kids’ summer vacations are presently underway and they need to participate in extracurricular activities.
“I have informed them all that this chain of events is absolutely free for children,” said Khaled. “We need to play a role that the media is not shouldering satisfactorily.” He went on to refer to the minimal amount of TV programmes and publications for children in the country.
The proceedings became somewhat vague when a participant read out a story from a comic book published by the OUP on Abdul Sattar Edhi’s life. It may not have been a great idea to read a comic book out loud and that too as a solo stint, and a suggestion here is that Khaled Anam should call on his dramatist skills and read it out to children at any of the related future events.
Picking up as if on cue, Khaled Anam said, “I also want to introduce storytelling in the forthcoming events.”