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‘Chennai needs CBF-like fest for children’

Despite Chennai’s vibrant reading community, as evidenced by the notable presence of children exploring diverse genres at the annual book fair, the city surprisingly lacks a dedicated literature festival exclusively for kids. We spoke to a few authors to understand the reasons behind this gap and explore potential avenues for introducing literature festivals for that age group

‘Chennai needs CBF-like fest for children’

A kid flipping through comic book at the Chennai Book Fair

CHENNAI: Books are indeed our best companions, offering comfort and serenity through their captivating narratives. Each chapter holds the promise of surprises, enriching our reading experience. Chennai boasts a thriving reading community, evident from the significant presence of children exploring various genres at the annual book fair.

“Books encourage openness and empathy. For example, reading about characters' difficulties and how they navigate them is an important way for kids to see how people solve problems, make their peace with failure and loss, and figure out who they want to be. Books also expose children to the sheer diversity of their community, city, and world, showing them that people's lives can come in myriad shapes and follow any number of trajectories,” starts Aswitha Jayakumar, a children's author.

Another author, Sheela Preuitt believes that books open young readers to surreal experiences. “Forming new opinions, exercising their imagination, and even developing critical analytical skills, inadvertently come from reading books,” she delves.

Sheela Preuitt

Fourteen-year-old author Sharvanth's association with books started when he was seven. He started reading books as a leisure activity. “That entirely changed my life. Through my parents’ guidance, I learned about a lending library. I finished reading 400 books from different genres. Lockdown was a golden period to start my writing journey. During that time, I completed 41 short stories,” he says. “Reading and writing books improved my English language fluency. It increased my confidence level and communication skills. Also reading influenced other essential aspects of life,” adds the young author.


Given the numerous benefits of reading and its profound impact on shaping children's personalities, it's surprising that schools in Chennai are not hosting literature festivals for children. Only a handful of schools in the city are currently hosting literature festivals. It begs the question - why doesn't Chennai have an exclusive literature festival for children, similar to those in Bengaluru, Mumbai, Kolkata, and New Delhi?

Talking about the atmosphere of children’s lit fest and its difference from adult literature festivals, Sheela elucidates, “Festival invokes warm feelings of community gathering and celebration, and lit fests project the same warmth about celebrating books and its creators. This is a chance to meet the authors and illustrators, who created your favourite books, a wide array of books to browse, several storytelling sessions, workshops to pick up writing and storytelling skills and many more. The immersive experience fosters literacy, kindles curiosity, and possibly creates a lifelong reader in people. Adult lit fests might attract seasoned readers and cater to established fans. Whereas, the children's festival is like a magical gateway into a new world that can shape not only their reading preferences but also their minds.

Children’s author Praba Ram, whose writings focus on the environment, wildlife, STEM and disability, feels that the lit fest culture became popular in India since Jaipur Lit Fest. Giving DT Next a picture of the kids’ literature festival trend in other cities, she says, “This encourages kids and their parents and caregivers to appreciate reading books. Bookaroo Fest, run by Swati and Venky in Delhi and other cities, became the first official children's lit fest in India. It's a great experience to connect with like-hearted and like-minded creative folks in children's literature.”

Praba Ram

Aswitha suggests that organising sessions based on topics or activities can improve children's engagement with books, as well as their social and interpersonal communication skills. She thinks that the decrease in the number of independent books stores in the city might be the reason for lit fests not picking up. “Bookstores play a major part in popularising literature festivals. We need more bookstores, that allow kids to meet like-minded people. Schools also play a major role in creating this awareness. If schools are interested and willing to send students to attend the festival, then the market will expand. Another challenge in conducting the lit fest is funding. If people show an indication for organising such fests, then there is an appetite for it,” she remarks. Shedding light on the exposure children receive from such fests, she shares that they get to meet their favourite authors and it is an opportunity for great conversations.


“Lit fests help in exploring a wide range of books and also meet numerous readers and budding as well as established writers to get inspiration. It is important to conduct literature festivals frequently to shape the personalities of children and build a better future,” concludes Sharvanth.

Nivetha C
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