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      Volume 10 |Issue 06 | February 11, 2011 |

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Ekushey Boi Mela

Photos: Zahedul I Khan

Young Love for Books

Elita Karim

Photos: Zahedul I Khan

Ten-year-old Razin rests by the media centre inside the Bangla Academy premises, with his mother and three-year-old sister Warisha. Slightly annoyed yet with a lot of patience, Razin tries to answer his curious sister's prodding questions, while he browses through the books that he has just bought from the book fair. A student of class 5 at the Scholastica School in Mirpur, Razin has bought science fiction books and plenty of stories translated from languages all over the world. Razin is also carrying his painting board, all smeared with colours and marks. "There was a painting competition in the morning today," says Razin. "There were three categories made, according to the ages of the children participating. I fell in the second category and had to paint on the theme Mela (fair)." Rifat Bashir, the children's mother says that she brings her children to the Ekushey Boi Mela every February to buy them books and also to participate in the various competitions that are organised by the academy.

The last few Februaries, the Bangla Academy has been dedicating Fridays and Saturdays, to children and young book lovers of Dhaka city and around. The month-long Ekushey Boi Mela sometimes gets a little too taxing for the young ones when they are required to battle the crowds of people in the dusty environment, just so they can move from one book stall to another. "It is simply not safe to bring my children to the book fair after school on weekdays," says Kalpana Azim, mother of a 4-year-old daughter and a 13-year old son. "Weekends are always best, especially since my eldest likes to take his time and select books. On a weekday, that would be unthinkable!"

Children going through the books that they have just bought at the fair. Photos: Zahedul I Khan

This year, however, the authorities at the academy, did not make their usual announcement regarding reserving the weekend mornings for children. In spite of this, last weekend, the book fair was swarming with children, teenagers and young readers, spending a good amount of time at each stall, making purchases and then browsing through books with their parents and guardians.

The Ekushey Boi Mela is an event the entire family can appreciate.
Photos: Zahedul I Khan

While the young ones are seen buying books with plenty of pictures and animations, the slightly older children are going for fiction, novels and also DVDs and CDs. Eleven-year-old Raisa Moazzem, a student of class 7 at the Monipuri High School in Dhaka, relaxes with her parents at the ‘Writer's Meeting Point' inside the fair. The talented youngster shows the various DVDs and CDs that she has bought on poetry recitation. "I am involved with a lot of after-school activities," says Raisa. "I learn dance, music and recitation at the Shishu Academy after school."

A group of young higher secondary students are roaming about the premises by themselves. Unwilling to reveal their identities, they say that they bunked their extra coaching classes that weekend to make sure that they had enough time to buy books at the fair. "I would otherwise come a lot later with my parents and cousins, but I seriously cannot wait that long,” says one of the youngsters.

Fourteen-year-old Urmee, studying in class 9 at the Ispahani Girl's School in Dhaka is carrying loads of books, starting from Zafar Iqbal's latest 'Prodigy' to a revision of Tagore's 'Golpo Guchcho' and poems by Al-Mahmud and Shamsur Rahman. "She has her very own library at home and loves to add more to her collection whenever she gets the chance," says Nasreen, Urmee's sister-in-law.

Brother and sister enjoying the Ekushey Boi Mela. Photo: Zahedul I Khan

The Ekushey Boi Mela has become a platform where young readers can develop their habit of reading and at the same time choose from the hundreds of options around them. Getting into a library and reading is something that many youngsters miss out on in Dhaka city. Thus for young readers, it is probably only the month of February when they actually dare to express their love for books.



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