LAHORE - The seventh Children’s Literature Festival on the opening day at Children’s Library Complex on Wednesday attracted thousands of students from various cities of Punjab.

The festival based on a theme “Unlocking the power of reading” aims at promoting love of reading among children so that they may become critical thinkers, ask questions, learn to access information from books and other sources, process that information, and form their own opinions.

The two-day festival, organised by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) in collaboration with the Oxford University Press (OUP) and the Open Society Foundations (OSF), saw students, youth and families that kept the venue packed the whole day.

The book-lovers spread all over in the festival to buy books or participate in different sessions including storey-telling, storey-writing and discussions on curriculum and textbooks, libraries and right to education.

At the inaugural ceremony, Punjab Education Minister Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan said the importance of supplementary reading and literature could never be undermined and added that only those nations had progressed that involved themselves in reading, writing and learning new knowledge.

He said the Punjab government had worked a lot to improve curriculum and textbooks besides establishing good institutions for the better education and learning by schoolchildren. He said the Punjab government had also given a go ahead to include information on various historical sites in textbooks from Grade-I to X.

Welcoming the Indian delegates, the education minister said Pakistan and India should continue “fighting” against illiteracy, poverty, extremism and terrorism. He said Pakistan and India should enter the healthy competition and cited an example that the Punjab government broke India’s National Anthem recitation by 45,000 youth, which India again broke with recitation by 100,000 youth. “We will struggle to break this record again,” he added.

Federal Secretary Education and Training Ahmad Bakhsh Lehrri lauded the festival organisers for creating an opportunity for thousands of students to come out of their routine school environments and access to supplementary readings.

ITA Director Programmes Dr Baela Raza Jamil said the festival had been organised to promote the culture of reading in children across Pakistan and enhance their capability to think creatively and critically. She said this festival had helped bring together children from all backgrounds and languages to a common platform where they could learn, communicate, interact and participate in fun activities without any biases.

Dr Baela said it was a matter of grave concern that children were being pushed to read only their textbooks and continue preparing for examinations. She said the CLF would be having a healing impact for such children and encourage them to read literature and supplementary books and eventually build an innovative society.

OUP managing director Ameena Saiyid stressed that children must be given full access to libraries in their respective schools. He stressed that teachers should not lock libraries to `safeguard’ books and instead allow students to study all books.