Healthy societies have spaces for learning and connecting, and there is no better institute to facilitate this than libraries, which have the potential of becoming useful hubs of community activities. Keeping this in mind, a group of citizens got together in early 2018 to form a volunteer effort called The Library Project, which aims to revive public libraries in Islamabad and help the authorities improve their services.
The group regularly hosts events at the various library sites, and this Saturday they arranged an engaging and colorful programme of Urdu storytelling and cartoons for the children of the city at the Model Children’s Library. The Model Children’s Library has recently been shifted from its H-9 premises to Aiwan-e-Quaid building in F-9 Park, making it much easier for parents and children to access it in the serene environments of the park. At the moment it comprises of haphazardly organized rows of books, some of which are outdated and in need of replacement. The space however has potential to become a sanctuary of book loving children, and parents looking for healthy options of spending leisure time with their kids. It’s also an ideal venue to host storytelling and interactive events that can help spark the imagination of children and introduce them to the wonder of books. “The space can only improve if the citizens step forward and take ownership of the libraries, and actively participate in their improvement,” said Mehreena Khan, who founded the Project and runs it with the help of a small group of committed volunteers. “The Library Project has been working since the past two years to host events at public libraries to bring people into libraries and get involved with their revival.”
Canadian blogger Tamania Jaffri, who runs a popular blog by the name of “Udru Mom” on Facebook and Instagram, is visiting Islamabad currently and opted to host her regular Saturday Urdu storytelling session at the Model Children’s Library with her children. Tamania started live Facebook sessions a few years ago from her blog where she would read stories to her little daughter Zeynab in order to spark the love of Urdu and a connection for her child to her native culture. The idea became popular with other moms who were in the same situation and needing a way to make Urdu language attractive and accessible to their children. The blog now has a following of more than 65k people around the world and Tamania also writes about various aspects of our local culture including Eid preps, recipes and desi event hosting ideas as well as stories and rhymes in Urdu. She has been featured on international and local Canadian news networks and her online community continues to go from strength to strength.
“We are visiting family in Islamabad at the moment and thought it was a good opportunity to support the wonderful work of the Library Project team is doing, and meet our Islamabad followers as well,” said Tamania, who led a sing-along of popular Urdu rhymes and songs with active participation from children in the audience and their parents.
Award-winning cartoonist and puppeteer Nigar Nazar of Gogi Studios also graced the event to introduce her latest books and animations. The children enjoyed watching her latest animations including “Babloo the boy who hated books” and “The Garbage Monster”. Nigar Nazar is the first female cartoonist of Pakistan and has been creating animations since the past four decades. She spreads social messages like peace, inter-faith and inter-ethnic harmony, women’s rights, environmental protection, sexual harassment and bullying etc. through her cartoon character “Gogi” as well as other minor characters. Nigar told the audience of her upcoming mission to set-up a cartoon mural at the National Library of Pakistan with the involvement of the local children.
“Reviving libraries and bringing children back to books is no easy task in these times of exciting technology especially with the generation which is born clicking. My faith however was restored today; thanks to the the Library project which provided a platform to address a very crowded children Library space to parents and children. My way of combating this challenging position of technology versus old fashioned reading is by providing very attractive, colorful books, engaging stories that address current issues. So my stories supplemented by animations caught the fancy of many a reader – in fact we ran out of books to sell at the event.”
“I wish libraries in Pakistan could have public private partnerships to improve the overall state of affairs. These places could serve as centers of creativity and character-building with interactive sessions from writers, artists and story tellers,” Nigar added.
“The Library Project has been working since the past two years to host events at public libraries to bring people into libraries and get involved with their revival,” said Mehreena Khan, Founder of The Library Project. “We want to give our talented local writers and storytellers a space where they can project their work and be acknowledged for their wonderful contribution to society.”
Mehreena said that through such events we want to give our talented local writers and storytellers a space where they can project their work and be acknowledged for their wonderful contribution to society.
“It is very important to socialize the act of book reading for children and such events will go a long way in encouraging children to pick up a book and love their local language,” she added.
The Model Children’s Library hosts more than 7000 books for children and membership is free.
Tamania Jaffri blogs at @urdumom on Instagram and Facebook.
Nigar Nazar is on Facebook on @gogistudiosofficial
The Library Project can be found on @thelibproject