Children interest in books reading

Children losing interest in books
Jan 11: As television viewing, electronic games and the Internet have come to hold sway over children's leisure hours worldwide, parents have been complaining that children are losing interest in books.

Although reading books has not traditionally been a popular pastime in Pakistan, given the country's low literacy rate and poor state of education, publishers have begun to pay more attention to the needs of young readers.

For the first time in years, good-quality modestly priced reading material for children is available in bookshops. But why is this flood of children's literature in English and Urdu failing to attract new readers? Why aren't more children reaching out for books? And why are the readers of yesterday not so enthusiastic about the printed word anymore?

Reading for pleasure, which introduces young minds to new ideas and information, must not be allowed to die. In fact, the need to actively promote reading by children still exists and should be pursued vigorously and imaginatively at all levels. Whatever strategy is adopted, it is important that some basic principles be adhered to.

Book promotion should not be a one-time effort. Encouraging reading should be an ongoing process and a collective effort by parents, teachers, publishers and education planners. It is a participatory process and reading out to younger children, especially by parents, can help them develop the reading habit as they grow older.

It is unrealistic to expect children to read non-curricular books simply because they have been exhorted to do so. Similarly, schools should allot space and a reasonable budget to libraries headed by those who are booklovers and can stimulate the children's interest in their stocks.

This is no doubt a challenging job at a time when there are so many distracting factors that take away children from books. Yet technology such as the Internet and television are no substitute for the human interaction books can provide if they are used as a means to bring readers together.

It is ironical that at a time when publishers have responded to the demand for children's literature and there is a deluge of children's books in the market, the readers should be disappearing. Dawn

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Students face accommodation problems
Islambad: Bachelors, students facing residential problems due to acute shortage of accommodation facilities in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

Akhtar Khan, living in a single room in Sector G-7/2 said the main reason for the accommodation shortage was the lack of bachelor hostels and proper affordable housing schemes in the twin cities.

Khan said he had been facing residential problem since he arrived in the capital in 2007 after completing his studies.

"In the past three years, I have changed my residence many times due to the ill attitude of landlords or lack of basic facilities," he added.

He said the setting up of more hostels could bring relief to bachelors who came here from far-flung areas of the country in search of jobs and education.

Muhammad Salim, an IT employee, said rents of rooms and houses had surged in the last few years due to the unprecedented influx of students and job seekers in the twin cities. " I am paying Rs 6,000 for a single unfurnished room and the owner raises rent, 10 percent every year," he added.

Imran Shah, a student, said due to unavailability of proper hostel facilities, he had to live in a small room.

"It is quite difficult for a student to find a reasonable living place at affordable rates," he added.

He said private hostels had been charging Rs 6,000 to Rs 8,000 for a single bed accommodation adding that these hostels had no proper cleanliness system and balance diet. APP

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PRCS launched project for Swat students
Swat: The Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has launched mega educational programme for 15,000 students of Swat besides setting up a state-of-the-art Student Educational Resource Centre that will be linked to all the educational intuitions.

According to a press release, the project aims to convene educational support to 15,000 children of primary schools and the support will be provided at five different locations - Kanju, Mingora, Bandai in Swat, Timergara in Dir and Pir Baba in Buner district.

PRCS Vice Chairperson Senator Nilofar Bakhtiar launched the project at a ceremony attended by the students and teachers of the schools that were destroyed by the militants. She said that the Student Resource Centre would consist of library, computer and science laboratories and all educational intuitions of the area could benefit from the centre. She said that the PRCS aims to provide educational facilities to the students under one roof so that they can equip themselves with the latest techniques.

Senator Nilofar said the project implementation strategy would ensure beneficiaries' participation in all stages of the project cycle and sense of ownership would be created in the community through participation and dialogue. "In this hour of crisis, the people have no money to meet the educational needs of their children and PRCS feels satiated to intervene in much needed area," she added.

Senator Nilofar held meeting with the students and teachers of the area who apprised her of their problems. PRCS Secretary General Muhammad Ilyas Khan said the society distributed seed and fertilisers to over 300,000 people of the area and further plans to provide agriculture assistance to 20,000 families.

The ceremony was attended by PRCS NWFP Chairman Dr Sher Muhammad, Secretary Ali Hasan, Swat Branch Secretary Prof Mohibullah Jan, notables of the area, students, teachers and volunteers of the PRCS.

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Schools re-establishment
Peshawar: Working with communities and the Education Department, the Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) has rebuilt seven government schools in affected parts of Swat in just 45 days using a combination of wood, corrugated sheets and insulated material.

The buildings constructed near the rubble of the destroyed structures are an excellent contrast and a heartening sight. Visit by this correspondent to the Government Primary School, Totakay in Manglawar Union Council in Charbagh tehsil and Government Girls Primary School, Speena Khpa in Kharerai Union Council in Matta tehsil showed three lovely buildings which had a nice environment, were well ventilated and insulated to protect the children against heat and cold.

The buildings had also been provided furniture and children given bags. The schools also had latrines, boundary walls and water facilities. The children were excited to have a furnished building in a very short time.

SRSP Regional Manager in Swat Zahid Khan said most of the staff of SRSP had experience of working in the earthquake-affected areas of Mansehra where SRSP supported the community schools. These had been destroyed in the October 8, 2005 earthquake.

"We learnt this innovation there. In a very short time we had children going to schools. In Swat hundreds of schools were destroyed and the children are going to face difficulties dealing with cold and rain and the need for innovation was acutely felt there," he explained.

The SRSP regional manager said the response by both the education department and the communities was exemplary. "The education department identified schools and provided space where the buildings could be put up. The communities actively participated in the construction and the fact that these schools have been put up in such a short time is a manifestation of this cooperation," Zahid Khan said.

The SRSP regional manager said the buildings would last many years. He said this would provide the public sector breathing space to rebuild the destroyed buildings. These buildings, as one of the community elders pointed out, provided the communities with confidence and are a morale booster.

Zahid Khan pointed out that the buildings had been put up with resources generated locally from different individuals and organisations in Pakistan and no foreign donor had contributed to the process. He said the SRSP would help build more school buildings once resources become available. He said the SRSP was planning to provide computers and furniture, etc, in different localities and also repair the drinking water systems in schools.

Around 400 schools, mostly of girls, were damaged in the militancy spell and counter-militancy actions in Malakand division of which 175 had been destroyed. As the government announced reopening of the educational institutions, it provided tents to some of the demolished facilities. Some managed to run their educational activities at rented or temporarily donated buildings.

Tents were not provided to the most schools despite the fact that it too could never be a better replacement for continuation of studies in the severe winter in Swat. The news

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Pakistani boy's book
Rawalpindi: A 16-year-old Pakistani boy has gained prominence with the publication of a collection of his short stories and poems that has been archived in the main reading room of the National Library of Australia.

Usman Ashraf, who was born and raised in Australia, said on Sunday that he had developed a passion for writing when he was a child.

"I started writing short stories and poetry as young as when I was six."

Usman, whose parents hail from Pakistan, had his collection 'Psyche' published just after he turned 15.

His works vary from themes ranging from potential love to criminal insanity and trust among a complex myriad of other emotions.

"Psyche is not a haphazard affair, but the fiction pieces are interlinked with an emphasis on the human mind, how we think, how we feel, how we react in different situations and it explores the range and spectrum of emotions that we all have," Usman said.

The book has been reviewed by well-known literary companies. Dawn

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Book on Chitral Valley
Peshawar: A book on Chitral that has hit the stalls can be helpful in providing guidance to those interested in knowing about the scenic valley, its people, culture and traditions.

Basically a travelogue, the book titled 'Chitral Chitral Hay' (Chitral is Chitral), depicts the landscape, culture, history, infrastructure and lifestyle of the people as well as famous and important towns of the Chitral - the biggest district of the NWFP in terms of area as it makes up 30 per cent of the total area of the province.

Prof Dr Zahoor Ahmad Awan, chairman of Gandhara Hindko Board, Dr Inayatullah Faizi of Government Degree College, Chitral, Salma Awan, principal of Lahore Garrison Grammar School, Nasir Ali Syed, Shah Hussain Gatvi, Saleem Safi and Haroonur Rehman, son of the author, have commented on the publication.

In the 200-page publication, the author late Prof Abdur Rahman has minutely touched the centauries-old traditions, unique way of life of the people including the minority Kalash people, scenic and historical places, socio-economic conditions, health, educational facilities and above all the folk tales and superstitions related to area.

Born in Chakdara town of Dir Lower district and a college teacher by profession, Prof Abdur Rahman had emotional attachment with Chitral and would regularly attend Kalash festivals. A lecturer in chemistry at the Government Degree College, Timergara, he died on November 25, 2008 before the publication of the book. His son Haroonur Rehman, however, materialised his dream of getting the book published. It is based on the wealth of information he had collected on Chitral.

Divided into 11 chapters, the collection has rare photographs, vocabulary of Chitrali, Nuristani and Kalash languages, educational, literary and social and tourist importance, Buddha culture impact on the area, local culture and traditions, known festivals and historical places.

Besides other basic information about the valley, the tales about Kalash seasonal festivals, the oldest traditions like marriages, burials, dance, foods, and locals' belief in superstition are worth reading and interesting. The publication priced Rs270 is available in the market and can be of help to those in search of information about the Chitral Valley, important towns, its people and their way of life. The news

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