The Asian Festival Of Children's Content, which kicks off on May 30, will come with a bilingual twist this year.
In conjunction with the 25th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties between Singapore and China, the festival features China as the country of focus, with a stronger focus on bilingualism for young readers.
Ten Chinese authors, publishers, and academics from China will be invited to speak and present at 13 seminars, talks and workshops at the event. These include speeches about preparing children to converse in more than one language, as well as how to expose them to literature to cultivate a love of reading.
Professor Tan Chee Lay, 42, deputy executive director for the Singapore Centre for Chinese Language at Nanyang Technological University, says that the events during the festival would be a useful platform to expose youngsters to quality Asian and local content.
"Early reading for children is important in shaping their perception of the world, their language development and confidence in expressing themselves. Hence, choosing appropriate children's stories for them is vital and crucial," says Prof Tan, who will be giving a talk on the importance of bilingual books and international collaborations between Singapore and China.
The festival, which is in its sixth year, will be offering several public and family- oriented language programmes at regional libraries, as well as Fun With Languages programmes that involve interactive activities. These include live performances, skits and storytelling.
Organisers expect about 15,000 people to attend this year, about 4,000 more than the 11,000 people, both local and from overseas, who attended last year's events. The event will also be bigger this year, with 118 events and 149 speakers compared with last year's 95 events and 114 speakers.
This year, local arts company Act 3 International will launch the first production of its Children-For-Children project during the event. It focuses on adapting original scripts from content by Asian authors to incorporate theatrical styles such as Chinese opera, dramatic readings, as well as choral and dance movements.
Comprising 60 thespians, aged nine to 16, from drama clubs of various schools, the performance troupe will perform plays at the National Library Building in four languages, from June 3 to 5.
"We use two languages for many of the shows to fit in with the bilingual aspect of the festival. A few of the stories we based our material on are bilingual as well and we wanted to respect the vernacular," says Ms Ruby Lim-Yang, artistic director of Act 3 International.
Mr Ricky Chng, who has a two- year-old daughter and plans to start a business publishing children's picture books, will be attending the festival for the first time.
"I want to understand how authors and illustrators come up with their ideas and designs," says the 39-year-old, who has bought a full festival pass.
"I believe the festival, especially its talks, will be informative in pushing children's content to the public."
Public Language Programmes
What: Talks for parents and teachers on preparing their children for a bilingual future and how to develop the reading habit. In Mandarin, Malay and Tamil.
When: May 30 to June 6
Where: Regional libraries
Admission: Free, registration required
Fun With Languages Programmes
What: Experience bilingualism with activities catering to young children starting on new languages. There will be storytelling in languages such as Malay and Korean, talks and a workshop on learning language through creative music and dance.
When: June 1 and 2
Where: National Library
Writers And Illustrators Conference
What: Writers, illustrators and industry professionals share opinions on issues such as bilingual literature for children.
When: June 3 to 5
Admission: $350 for a three-day pass, $200 for one-day pass
This article was first published on May 19, 2015.
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