Children's book festival looks at mental strength for kids

The Asian Festival of Children's Content will run virtually this year. PHOTO: ASIAN FESTIVAL OF CHILDREN'S CONTENT/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - The Asian Festival of Children's Content this year plans to foreground mental resilience for kids and digitalisation - timely given the pandemic, even as new tightened restrictions have forced the festival to abandon plans to go hybrid.

Instead, the annual festival for children's books, now in its 12th edition, will run virtually from Thursday (May 27) to Sunday - the second time it has been driven online owing to Covid-19.

Organisers had planned for a hybrid festival this year in response to demand for face-to-face interactions from last year's participants.

"But the current situation reminds us that we must always have contingency plans in place and switch modes quickly on a dime's notice," says Mr William Phuan, executive director of the Singapore Book Council, which organises the festival.

Some 300 participants attended last year's digital festival, about 200 fewer than in previous years' physical festivals. However, organisers are expecting about 400 participants this year.

The line-up will feature more than 100 speakers, including Japanese animator and illustrator Koji Yamamura, known for his Oscar-nominated anime short film Mt Head (2002); New York Times best-selling fantasy author Holly Black, whose books include Ironside (2007) and The Folk Of The Air series; and Newbery Honour award-winning American author Christina Soontornvat.

Soontornvat, 40, who is based in Texas, will be speaking in a virtual dialogue about her writing journey and her book All Thirteen (2020), which tells the story of the widely reported Thai cave rescue of 12 youth soccer players and their coach in 2018.

She said in an e-mail interview that she wants the book's resilient spirit to motivate readers during this difficult time: "I hope my readers walk away from the book knowing that they are strong and no matter what they are going through, they can make it out the other side."

As Singapore's students move once more to home-based learning, the festival also hopes to provide strategies to navigate the plethora of online resources for children.

Dr Loh Chin Ee, 45, will be speaking on a podcasting panel about her podcast series, How We Read, which aims to help parents and teachers understand how kids learn to read and recommends books for them.

"Children don't necessarily know how to read using technology," says Dr Loh, who is deputy head of research at the National Institute of Education's English Language and Literature Academic Group.

"It's important for parents to set aside time to teach them how to look for books they like."

Book it/Asian Festival of Children's Content

Where: Online

When: Thursday to Sunday. All physical workshops will take place online instead from June 3 to 5. They will be accessible to festival pass holders and are not ticketed separately.

Admission: From $52.40 (one-day digital pass) to $155.07 (four-day digital pass) from Eventbrite

Info: Festival website

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