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We need to revive reading habits, turning non-readers into book lovers,””¦”¦ Saniyasnain Khan

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Delhi based children’s author, Saniyasnain Khan, participated in the recently held Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature at Dubai. In a brief conversation with Mateen Ahmed, he shares his experiences of the Dubai Lit Fest, writing for children, the challenge of books in digital format and the representation of Indian authors there.

Tell us something about your visit to the Dubai Lit Fest.
The Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature is held every year in Dubai. The sixth edition of the festival was a five-day long celebration of words in all its form, whether printed or digital, ranging from book reading sessions to interviews, to seminars, workshops and cultural events. This year it organised a vibrant range of programme for children of all ages and the underlining theme among all these programme was how to revive the reading habits, turning non-readers into book lovers.
What got you interested in writing?
I started writing because I felt that the need of the hour was to convey the message of the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad to our children. I believe it is easier to sow the seeds of moral values in children than in grownups. So, I write in the hope that once children are grounded in the message of Islam they will grow up to be more tolerant, peace-loving and positive individuals.
Do you consider ebooks and apps a threat to printed books?
I will not call it a threat, but a challenge. It is a challenge to make much better books so that children never look for alternatives. In the Dubai Lit Fest, authors and illustrators agreed that the digital format will not much affect children’s books as much as it will general books, especially fiction, non-fiction and textbooks.
What was the representation of Indian writers there like?
Quite a number of writers from India participated in the Dubai Lit Fest this year. Most of them are now settled outside India, and share their time between India and other countries. Although, they work in various literary genres, they share common themes which are of universal appeal. Sessions of Pankaj Mishra and Amish Tripathi were especially thought provoking. Platforms like these provide a space to express yourself which I think helps a lot.
(Saniyasnain Khan can be reached at [email protected])