The announcement, which came during SBA’s participation in the Guadalajara International Book Fair in Mexico, reflects the emirate’s immense efforts in promoting children’s love of literature and the arts. The ongoing emphasis on cultural education, festivals and exhibitions for young people continues to deliver the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohamad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and the directives of His Highness’s Wife, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA).
The consistent investment in children is one of Sharjah’s most prominent achievements. Each year, the emirate organises and hosts an array of major events to enhance their knowledge, develop their skills and hone their talents not only for their own benefit, but also for the benefit of their families and communities.
Among the annual events dedicated exclusively to children in Sharjah are the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, Sharjah Children’s Biennial, and Sharjah Children Shura Council. The Sharjah International Book Fair – the third largest in the world – also attracts vast numbers of schoolchildren and young people over the course of its eleven-day run.
The emirate is also home to the headquarters of the UAE Board on Books for Young People, the Arab Children’s Book Publishers Forum, the Kalimat Foundation for Children’s Empowerment and the Rubu’ Qarn Foundation for Creating Leaders and Innovators.
“Sharjah’s children enjoy a very special status that is unparalleled in the region, thanks a wide range of strategies, campaigns and initiatives that encourage an atmosphere of learning and a thirst for knowledge,” said Ahmed Al Ameri, Chairman of SBA.
“To be named Guest of Honour by the Bologna Book Fair is a wonderful testament to the emirate’s ambitions and achievements,” he added.
Al Ameri underscored that Sharjah’s participation in the Bologna Book Fair has always been a source of passion and inspiration to others who have an interest in the quality of children’s books which have been published or won awards in Sharjah.
“We are extremely pleased to have the opportunity to share our experiences in the world of children’s literature during the 2020 edition of Bologna book fair, which will be an enormous celebration of Emirati culture and Arab heritage associated with young people,” he said.
For her part, Elena Pasoli, Exhibition Manager at Bologna Children’s Book Fair, said: “Our fair is one of the most significant platforms for children’s books in the world. For more than half a century, the fair has featured quality books and attracts a host of renowned illustrators and authors who showcase their expertise, experience and practices at a global level.
“The fair is scrupulous in its selection of the Guest of Honour, with the focus being placed on cities, countries and regions with great cultural heritage, or those that have established new platforms for producing books which target children and young people, nurturing their critical thinking and expanding the scope of their creativity. Given the rich cultural experience of the Emirate of Sharjah, we are delighted to welcome it as the Guest of Honour in April 2020,” she added.
The Sharjah Book Authority was the sole representative of the Arab world at Guadalajara International Book Fair, and promoted Arab culture among the fair’s visitors and participants interested in exploring the culture of the Arab world in general and the UAE in particular.
The Guadalajara Book Fair selected Madrid to be this year’s Guest of Honour, and hosted many authors, illustrators, artists and celebrities from the Spanish capital. This provided SBA with an opportunity to connect with them and extend an invitation to take part in Sharjah’s own cultural activities. SBA also held several meetings with publishers and book experts from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Chile among many others.
Ahmed Al Ameri met with Hugo Setzer, Vice-President of the International Publishers Association, and explored ways to develop and enhance cooperation between SBA and publishers from Spanish speaking countries. Al Ameri highlighted that Sharjah Publishing City, the world's very first publishing free zone, welcomes all international publishers, giving them the opportunity to establish regional branches and offices serving readers of their publications in the Arab world and the surrounding regions. He added that Sharjah looks forward to playing a pioneering role in promoting reading as an intrinsic cultural practice, essential for intercultural, knowledge-based dialogue.
Sharjah is internationally recognised as a cultural leader in the Arab world and is a crucial hub for launching knowledge- and book-related initiatives and projects, with special attention given to children’s literature. The emirate supports the production, publishing and distribution of children’s books by organising training workshops to develop the capacity of authors and illustrators as part of its ‘Warsha’ project, an initiative affiliated to the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature.
Sharjah and Bologna share similar characteristics, both possessing a passion for books and culture. Known as the cultural capital of the UAE, Sharjah has a rich portfolio of awarded titles that include the Capital of Arab Culture for 1998, Capital of Islamic Culture for 2014 and most recently, UNESCO World Book Capital 2019. Bologna, in turn, is the cultural capital of Italy and the Capital of European Culture for 2000. It is one of the most culturally vibrant cities in Europe due to its many bookstores, public libraries and museums.
The emirate is known for its beautiful buildings inspired by Islamic architecture and is a regional hub for art, cinema and theatre. It is home to the most prestigious universities in the region and is regarded for its numerous museums, as well as for being a main venue for exhibitions and cultural festivals organised throughout the year. Bologna is also famous for its architectural monuments and is home to the oldest universities in Europe.