CLF, Alif Ailaan initiate ‘school reading project’ for children


The Children’s Literature Festival (CLF) and NGO Alif Ailaan have initiated a ‘school reading project’ with the hope that the day will come soon when parliamentarians will visit government schools in their constituencies to interact with students and teachers through storytelling and encourage reading habits.

CLF founder Baela Raza Jamil discussed how encouraging it was for children when a parliamentarian visited their school. “The interaction of such people with students means a lot to the children,” Jamil said, adding that a child would remember for his life time that some minister or a secretary visited their school and talked to them or read out a story to them.

“It should be done to encourage students to read and take interest in story books,” Alif Ailaan political advocacy and communications manager Maliha Umer said. In her presentation, she also talked about how such initiatives of these stakeholders could bring change in the society.

Umer said that students should be motivated to read story books other than their course books. “A politician’s visit to any school can make headlines in newspapers, while students and teachers will also be encouraged to maintain the quality of education,” she said. Umar believes that after visiting schools, the parliamentarians can also discuss the condition of schools in assemblies and bring changes in the education system.

The storytelling workshop is a part of a series of workshops which are being held across Pakistan under the School Reading Program 2016 – a project of Children’s Literature Festival and Alif Ailaan – to ensure that poor learning levels begin to occupy increased space in the education discourse.

CLF CEO Maham Ali briefed the audience on poor learning levels. She noted that on a national level, 49 per cent of Class 5 students could not read sentences in English, 50 per cent could not do simple 2-digit division, and 55 per cent students could not read stories in Urdu, all meant for Class 2. While a provincial comparison of learning levels showed that Sindh ranked the lowest in categories of ‘Class 5 students who can read sentences in English’ and in ‘Class 5 students who can do two-digit math’, according to annual status of education report 2015.

Two trainers from Zambeel Dramatic Readings Mahvash Faruqi and Asma Mundrawala led the workshop to teach the participants how to describe a story to school going children.

They engaged the parliamentarians, local government representatives and education managers at the workshop through a tale about a crocodile and a monkey and asked them to explain the story in their own ways.

Education Secretary Fazlullah Pechuho and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) MNA Dr Fauzia Hameed promised the CLF and Alif Ailaan that they would visit government schools and interact with children through storytelling. Standing committee on education chairperson and Pakistan People’s Party MPA Taimur Talpur, Rehan Hashmi and Jamal Ahmed from the MQM also attended the workshop.

Mundrawala believes that five things should be focused while interacting with children through storytelling. These include eye contact, voice control, facial expressions, body language and expressions. “These points should be kept in mind whenever you tell a story to a child, or else he will lose interest in the story,” she said.


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