Karachi   - Eminent poet, scholar and educationist Dr Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui has said that corruption is like a mental illness, which can only be cured by character building through promotion of literature and literary activities, especially among children who need books instead of electronic gadgets.

“Unfortunately, children’s literature in Urdu language and youngsters’ interest in books is shrinking due to growing use of electronic gadgets like cell phones and tablets, which are negatively affecting their cognitive abilities,” Dr Pirzada Qasim said while speaking at the 20th thematic calendar launch on the topic of children’s literature in Karachi.

The thematic calendar on the theme “Role of Children’s Literature in National Rebuilding”, designed and produced by the Jahan-e-Masiha Adbi Forum in collaboration with a pharmaceutical firm, was unveiled at a ceremony attended by writers, poets, doctors and pharmacists from different public and private organizations at a hotel here on Saturday.

Over 35,000 calendars would be distributed to public and private hospitals, educational institutions, doctors and researchers so that children and parents visiting them could learn the importance of books and literature in character building of children, organizers said.

Dr Pirzada Qasim maintained that creating literature for children was not an easy job even for most of the writers and poets and conceded that even he could not write for children as it was too difficult for him to reach at the mental level of children.

“In this era of digitalisation, very little literature for children is being produced and this is deplorable. Unfortunately, not every writer is endowed with the ability to write for children and those who are writing for children are not creating cognitive abilities among children,” he said.

He maintained that as quality literature was not being produced for children in this era, children were losing their interest in books and they were attracted more towards cell phones and digital platforms, which was adversely affecting their cognitive abilities.

Calling for educating children through books and literature, he said honesty, truth and integrity could not be introduced to children without character building and that was impossible without introducing them to quality literature and history.

Hamdard Foundation President Sadia Rashid in her address said her father Shaheed Hakim Muhammad Said was one of the pioneers of Urdu literature for children in Pakistan. She said he introduced Hamdard Naunehal Magazine, which was part of most of children’s lives for the last 50 years.

Deploring that Hamdard Naunehaal Magazine and her father Hakim Muhammad Said could not find any place on the thematic calendar for children, she urged the government to establish book streets on the pattern of food streets to promote book reading.

Quaid-e-Azam Academy Director Khawaja Razi Haider said it was the 20th annual calendar by the Jahan-e-Masiha Adbi Forum and this year its theme was introducing writers and creators of Children’s Literature in Urdu, who influenced lives of millions of people in their early childhood.

He said that selecting writers and contents for the thematic calendar was a gigantic task as they could only select 12 writers for twelve pages of the calendar. He said that they could not include several writers who created excellent prose and poetry for children in the history of Urdu language.

Syed Jamshed Ahmed, chief executive officer of the Pharmevo, which has been financing thematic calendars for last 19 years, deplored that use of Urdu language was diminishing even at the educational institutions and children were facing difficulty in expressing their feelings in their mother tongue. He said this was so because children were giving more time to digital gadgets than books.

“In this scenario where children born after 1996 have been declared a digital generation, we have tried to re-establish their link with books because we feel that a healthy society cannot be created without promoting books and literature, especially among children,” Jamshed Ahmed said.

Haroon Qasim, Prof Saleem Mughal, Dr Nisar Ahmed Rao, Syed Irfan Ahmed, Dr Mashhoor Alam, Brig Dr Shoaib Ahmed and others also spoke.