The inaugural Asian Festival of Children's Content came to a close on May 9. More than 600 authors, illustrators, publishers, retailers, distributors, rights agencies and media professionals converged at The Arts House in Singapore to listen to 70 speakers from 15 countries including the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, New Zealand and Australia discuss materials for children. In total, 84 sessions were scheduled during the four-day event.
Centered around the theme of promoting original Asian content, first, within the region, and then, to the world, AFCC was divided into four main segments: a conference for children's writers and illustrators; a symposium for publishers, rights agencies, distributors and retailers; a congress for preschool and primary school teachers; and a forum targeted at parents. Eight tracks, including one on new media technologies and its impact on children’s content, were introduced to cater to different professional groups.
Jointly organized by National Book Development Council of Singapore, AFCC was a new initiative that had sprung from the Council's annual Asian Children's Writers & Illustrators Conference. For Claire Chiang, the festival's advisory board chairperson who is also an author, community advocate and businesswoman, kick-starting the growth and internationalization of Asian children's content was the main goal. "We have had easy access to, and benefited from, a wide selection of educational and entertainment content from the West. In contrast, Asian materials, even those already available in the marketplace, are seldom translated and promoted, and therefore largely unexplored. This is a big loss for children worldwide, and an untapped industry with tremendous potential."
Event director R. Ramachandran added: “AFCC marked the first time the entire Asian community of children’s content professionals and industry personnel across various media was brought together to interact, share and discuss how quality and relevant Asian content could be created, packaged and brought to the attention of children and those who work with them. This festival provided a platform to address the imbalance created by the dominance of Western content for children in this part of the world. Hopefully, in due time, these exchanges will result in unique Asian content that is produced and published to standards comparable to the best in the world.”
At one dialogue between ASEAN and Indian writers, illustrators and publishers, Triena Noeline Ong, who is the president of the Singapore Book Publishers Association and the head of the Institute of South East Asian Studies, summed up many of the common issues faced by the panelists and audience. “Firstly, there is the difficulty in finding experienced and qualified translators for literature and children’s titles. Secondly, there is a need to establish regular meeting venues among publishers in this region to network and develop collaborative publishing projects. There is also a lack of a database on books produced by Asian publishers.” Ong, who is also the vice-president of the ASEAN Book Publishers Association, is determined to follow up on these issues with her counterparts in the region.
Two book prizes, Scholastic Asian Book Award and Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award, were announced at the launch of AFCC on May 6. Each offers $7,300 in prize money. Several new titles were also launched and exhibited, including Baby Panda Finds His Way, Tuti and I, God Is Hu? and Georgette’s Mooncakes.