Begin a new chapter

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 October, 2011, 12:00am


Are you an avid reader or writer? Do you love all things literary? If so, and you are looking for ways to motivate your children to read more, a growing number of literary festivals around the region offer enrichment programmes for children and teenagers alongside events for adults.

One such event is the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, held annually in October in what many call the cultural heart of Bali. Activities for children include storytelling, folklore, painting, poetry and photography. Young adults have an opportunity to learn more about television, social media and publishing.

Many of the Ubud workshop sessions take place in outdoor spaces with views of terraced rice fields, or in open-air rooms cooled by a tropical forest breeze. This year, the Ubud festival provided 25 free and diverse bilingual workshops over the course of five days for young people from five years to 25 years old. Topics included 'Personal branding: who am I in social media?' and 'How to use photographs to tell a story'.

Samira Saran, a 12-year-old from Boston who now lives in Jakarta, attended the festival. She went with her parents, Mini Malhotra, an educator who enjoys painting, and Vik Saran, a writing buff who is taking a break from corporate life. Samira attended many of the youth workshops on offer, including 'Creating your own storybook cover', along with dozens of Balinese children and a handful from overseas.

Samira had the opportunity to watch Edel Rodriguez, a Cuban-American illustrator and author, demonstrate the artistic process of creating a visual narrative.

'My parents asked me if I wanted to come and, although I missed school, I was really excited to attend with them. That's because I love books and writing,' says Samira.

Samira's parents believe that attending the conference is not only fun, but productive: 'We've rediscovered how much we enjoy writing and painting, and have resolved to spend more time doing it. And what better place to do it than Ubud?' says Malhotra.

Gustra Putra Wira, in his third year organising the youth programme, believes the international component is growing exponentially every year. 'We have children and teens attending with their parents from Hong Kong and as far away as Scotland,' he says.

Global Jaya International School, a K-12 international school located outside Jakarta, made its third visit to Ubud. Wayne Harwood, IB Diploma teacher for Global Jaya, says the festival has become embedded into the activities offered to students in Years 10 and 11. 'It's a very positive experience for students and the teachers who accompany them,' Harwood says.

Harwood understands first hand how much the students gain by attending the festival. 'Students believe it will help with future study in the IB programme, and are able to pick up ideas that will help them with their own writing,' he says.

This year, Harwood brought his eight-year-old daughter and attended children's and adult workshops with her when he wasn't accompanying his enthusiastic students.

Harwood enjoyed watching his daughter's enthusiasm grow. 'After one workshop, I was really excited to hear Alexandra talk about the experience. I liked watching her collect an author's signature,' he says.

The festival was founded by Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati, an independent NGO dedicated to supporting Indonesia's children through a range of community-building cultural programmes.

Since it began in 2004, the festival has offered dozens of workshops for children, including sessions for young adults interested in activities like media studies. This year more than 40 local and international schools participated.

Janet De Neefe, the festival's founder, organised a children's programme in the festival's first year: 'It's a serious part of the festival. It's important to offer the younger generation creative fuel to fire the imagination. As a parent and former teacher, I believed the children's programme was a must.'

For details of the Ubud festival, go to




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