Celebrating World Children’s Day with books | Sunday Observer

Celebrating World Children’s Day with books

18 October, 2020
Photos: Vipula Amerasinghe

This year, World Children’s day (October 1) followed hard on the heels of September, the literary month, And books was the very apt theme under which the Gratiaen Trust chose to celebrate World Children’s day in collaboration with Sarasavi Publishers. They held an in interactive story program at the Sarasavi bookshop, One Galle Face Mall, Colombo 2. During this program stories were related in English with the interactive participation of children. The selected stories were by winners of the Gratiaen Award for children’s books . The The Sunday Observer was an observer at the event.

The Gratiaen Trust and their young support team presented the stories very attractively. All the young participants responded very well. It was very heartening to see the children getting into the story and sharing their experiences with the others. Apart from interactive story telling, the children had other activities such as drawing, dancing, reciting, and drama. It was an absolute child centered educational program. During the interval some of the children went through the bookshelves at the shop. It was certainly a result of the story time in which they had just participated.

The Sunday Observer spoke to H.D. Premasiri, the Managing Director of the Sarasavi bookshop. He said,

“The children’s reading habit is very important in improving the readership in society, because children are the ones who continue reading in the future. We, as a leading bookshop always support this type of literary events and we admire the Gratiaen Trust’s effort in this matter. It’s very nice to see children coming to our bookshop, participate in the story time and read books in their own way. If we want to foresee a better future in our country, we have to create a good readership in society. Encouraging children to read is the first step towards that goal.”

At this event, we were able to meet a veteran writer and journalist A.D. Ranjith Kumara. He praised the Sarasavi bookshop and the Gratiaen Trust for launching this program.

“These types of literary activities should go for more children, more people. And they should not be limited to English, they should be available for other language users too, because we know how much enthusiasm Sinhala readers have for these types of literary works”, he said.

During the program we spoke to Dr. Harshana Rambukwella, a trustee of the GratiaenTrust. He said,

“Over the past 25 years the Gratiaen Trust has been interested in doing more to uplift literary standards, and to cultivate the reading habit among young children and youth.But for a long time we didn’t have the financial means to do so. However, today we could start a literary program for children with the partnership of the Sarasavi Bookshop to mark World Children’s Day. This is actually our first program for children. Through these events we want to develop a literary culture in society.”

When asked about the limiting of these events to an English speaking audience , he said,

“It’s unfortunate to limit these events to the English-speaking people. The reason for it is that our Trust was established for English writing in Sri Lanka. But having said that, we hope to work bilingually or trilingually, where possible. For instance, today a work of Sybil Wettasinghe was read out in Sinhala. And some of our writers and resource persons are also bilingual and trilingual. So, where possible we will use other two languages too. But our primary focus will be on English.”

Prof. Neloufer de Mel is the Chairperson of the Gratiaen Trust Foundation. We had the opportunity to speak with her at the children’s day program and also on current issues in readership and future literary endeavours of the Trust.

“The Gratiaen Trust felt that we must start with children and get children interested in reading literature. If they get that habit, they start enjoying literature and they will keep on reading.

This is the first time we have organised an event for children. And as you can see it’s going very well. So, we have decided to have it at the bookshop and we, the Gratiaen Trust have worked before with the Sarasavi Bookshop.

We want children to come to the bookshop, to see books all around them, and it really encouraged and got them interested in reading, and will hopefully be a catalyst for them to start writing creative literature as well. So, the first part of our program was readings from award winning children’s literature by writers who won the Gratiaen prize for children’s literature. And the second part of the program is where we are facilitating children to make up their own stories and to be creative.”

“Today we started with very young readers. It’s a good way, because if they get that habit of reading when they are very young, they will continue that habit throughout their life.” On October 1 it was a real literary experience marking World Children’s day with the Gratiaen Trust and the Sarasavi Bookshop.

It was greatly appreciated by all participants.