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Sunday, 28 May 2017

Educating Through Books - AFCC Sessions Part 1

'Books have a powerful way of triggering the imagination of children and building their understanding of the world.'

CEO  Elaine Ng of the National Library Board, Singapore

This was a sentiment echoed not only in my own seminar at this year's Asian Festival for Children's Content 2017 (AFCC) but in many other sessions I attended and moderated for as well. 

The official AFCC 2017 program, which ran from 17 - 21 May 2017, is nearly 90 pages long bursting with over 120 conference sessions and book-related events for delegates and the general public. That's a lot of talking, work-shopping, pitching and exchanging. I was delighted to be in the thick of it having been invited to present and launch my latest picture book there. I can but hope to reproduce the animated vibe and sense of camaraderie I experienced wondering up and down the multi-floored, air-conditioned halls of the mighty National Library, but I'm going to try...
Leslee Udwin punching out the virtues of educating the heart with narrative
...starting with, Leslee Udwin's EDUCATING THE HEART THROUGH BOOKS

This presentation rocked me to the core. Leslee is the CEO of THINK EQUAL, a film maker and rights activist. Her discussion around the last film she ever made, India's Daughter, was both confronting and revealing. As I commuted to and from the conference in the days that followed, I was haunted by the images she shared with us to illustrate how the inadequate accessibility of children's books to children at a young age can have serious implications on their social and emotional learning and thus bring about lasting social problems.

She described how Single Stories create vulnerability, which leads to stereotyping and thus are very limiting. 

* She stressed that we need to give young people the opportunity to develop their empathetic abilities through the process of narrative, conversations and experimental learning.

* She insisted that the disease within our societies - rape, violence and abuse - is the Mindset. It is this that must be changed. Throwing offenders behind bars is not the solution merely the clean up. Devaluing life makes it easier to erase. It is up to ALL OF US to initiate change.

* She argued that change is best taught and entrusted to those who can influence the future better than we adults who are already victims of Mindset, the children. And that a child's character forming years are crucially between 3 - 5 years of age, those years when they can be reached most effectively through exposure to books.

Her THINK EQUAL philosophies included a call out to writers and illustrators, enlisting them to help create narratives that:
  • teach children how to self-regulate
  • be sympathetic human beings
  • encourage emotional intelligence
  • foster critical thinking
  • mediate empathy
This session resonated so loudly for me, I could barely hear myself think afterwards. I left with the incongruous feeling of elation mixed with deep disquietude. The answers appear so simple and straightforward according to Socrates - 'education of the head without education of the heart is no education at all' and yet I still felt overwhelmed. As a creator, I was inspired. As a resident of mother Earth, I felt humbled and ashamed, and at the same time, galvanised to do something.

Leslee's stirring delivery provoked great thought and provided a meaningful and significant start to the conference.

#sessionsthatmakeyouthink

Stick around for more AFCC session installments soon.