Book sales spiral at Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival

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Children’s interest in book tales balloons at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival. Kamal Kassim/Gulf Today

Gulf Today, Staff Reporter

On the heels of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, directing the allocation of Dhs2.5 million for the purchase of books from the 139 publishers attending the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF) this year, an interview with some of them has revealed the incredible business opportunity the festival’s platform has created for them, directly linking publishers with thousands of readers of all age groups.

Hani Kreidieh and his wife, who run Dar Kriediah with presence in both Lebanon and the UAE, have an attractive collection at SCRF. “We publish original Arabic books as well as translations from Turkish, Finnish, Estonian, English and French. We also distribute international books.

We have been welcoming a steady stream of buyers. In the morning, schoolchildren are visiting, and, in the evening, parents are bringing their children.” DC Books, one of the most frequented bookstalls at every edition of SCRF and Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), is expecting a big turnout on the final weekend. A

ccording to Sanjay Jesudas, Purchase Manager of DC Books, more people will patronise the booth over the weekend when the crowds are expected to increase. Unlike its competitors, DC Books has had the advantage of selling books in Malayalam, Indian, English as well as international publications. With Keralites forming the largest chunk of the UAE population – a good many of them book lovers – the store has always had roaring sales in fiction, non-fiction, philosophy and children’s books genres.

Sunono Publishing Ltd UK is a fairly new entrant in the publishing scene but has been at Sharjah book fairs since its launch. Feda Shtia, Founder and CEO explained, “We are a publishing house based in Scotland, UK, and chose to name it Sunono after a swallow, a migratory bird as it represents well our presence as an Arabic publisher in the UK. At SCRF 2022, our interactive books for 0-5 years are the bestsellers.

We started only in November 2020, so the fact that we are surviving is a good sign, and a platform like SCRF goes a long way in ensuring this.” The Palestinian, who was born in the UAE and lived here until 2018, vouched that SIBF had always been part of her life. “So, it means a lot to me to be exhibiting here at SCRF now,” she signed off to attend to a young family with a toddler.

Dar Asala Lebanon has always had a booth at SIBF and SCRF, trying to find new markets and new clients. “We publish children’s books, mainly picture books. They are original Arab publications, and we give all our buyers the SCRF special discount of 25%, which has boosted our sales,” noted Mazen Hamdan.

Ideas are everywhere and you just have to be open to seeing them, remarked American author-illustrator Vashti Harrison earlier as she showed her young audience at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF) 2022 how she drew Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc. on the skin of half a green apple.

The 13th edition of SCRF, running in Expo Centre Sharjah until May 22, has the theme ‘Create Creativity’. “I just do that all the time because that is what creativity is,” she told a crowd of middle schoolers who observed and listened in fascination as she showed them how to draw captivating images and read out to them from her biographies of famous people written specifically for young readers.

Harrison, whose Hello, Star and Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History are among her numerous New York Times best-sellers, also gave them tips and tricks to put into their artwork. “When I work with books, I always start with sketches and they are messy,” she explained how her art takes colour and shape. She felt it important to share that it doesn’t all go in one step, and uses tools ranging from computer, iPad, Photoshop, paper and pencils to get the final product. 

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