02 Oct 2020

Children’s books in the age of coronavirus

Children’s books in the age of coronavirus

The annual Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) will tackle the challenges as well as opportunities the publishing industry currently faces in a fully digital format from 3-4 October 2020. Over two days, more than 40 featured writers, publishers and speakers from Singapore and around the world will gather to discuss how the children’s books industry is responding and adapting to the global pandemic.

Exploring the theme “Voyages”, AFCC will examine pressing topics such as the import of children’s books during a time of crisis; how to build resilience in children through books; the effects of digitalisation on book fairs and festivals; and how to build virtual communities. The festival will also take a close look at the impact of two popular genres – poetry and comics – and how schools can make them part of students’ essential reading. Featured speakers include Dr Junko Yokota, head juror of the Hans Christian Andersen Award; award-winning poets Naomi Shihab Nye (Young People’s Poet Laureate 2019-2021) and Mariko Nagai (two-time Pushcart Prize winner); Minh Lê, US writer and graphic novelist of Green Lantern: Legacy; Tohby Riddle, multi-awarded Australian picture book creator; and popular Chinese/Canadian author and illustrator Trevor Lai. The festival also features key figures in the media content and literary industry such as Dexter Ong, Head of Wattpad Studios (Asia); and Peter Florence, Director and Founder of the Hay Festival,

 Some of the highlight sessions include:

Opening Session: Children’s Books in the Time of Crisis and Change

Featured speakers: Junko Yokota, Bijal Vachharajani

In times of crisis and change, how have children’s book writers, illustrators, publishers responded to what was happening? What role does literature play in helping children to navigate through such situations? In this session, examine how children’s literature have documented pivotal moments in history, and explore how it continues to do so in our current times.

Building Resilience in Children During Crisis

Featured speakers: Myra Garces-Bacsal, Patrick Yee, Tohby Riddle

Deep-dive with us and discover how books that deal with socially and culturally sensitive issues can be a source of support for children during challenging times.

The Power of Poetry

Featured speakers: Mariko Nagai, Naomi Shihab Nye, Deborah Emmanuel

Poetry can be a powerful tool for children to explore their feelings within a simplified form. Explore the poetic form, its functions and potential, and how it can be a quiet, but powerful and inventive medium in writing for children.

(A New) Required Reading: Comics and Graphic Novels in Schools

Featured Speakers: Felicia Low-Jimenez, Carol Tilley, Remy Lai, Minh Lê 

Comics and graphic novels have long been overlooked as potential reading aids for children. With more writers and publishers producing comics and graphic novels for younger readers, learn how to help your children and students cultivate a love for reading through comic books and graphic novels in this session.

Building Virtual Communities: Do’s and Don’ts

Featured Speakers: Dexter Ong, David Liew    

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way we interact with others, with digital/online interaction now considered the norm for the foreseeable future across industries including creative content and education. This panel will discuss about these changes and how creators and users are building new virtual communities.

Digital Festivals and Book Fairs: The New Normal?

Featured speakers: Peter Florence, Carolina Ballester, Kamolpaj Tosinthiti

This year’s major book fairs and literary festivals have all had a common theme – the conversion of their event from physical to digital. Do organisers consider this as a silver lining or has it affected engagement with audiences? How has the literary industry, whose modus operandi is usually physical in nature, adapted to the unusual situation with the use of digital technology, and do they see this as the prime solution moving forward.

AFCC will also hold two masterclasses held on 2 October. They include “Understanding the Editorial Process” by Joanna Cárdenas, a senior editor at Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers. Her interactive masterclass will provide participants with the opportunity to fine-tune their novels and picture books. The other is a partnership with the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) on the “Page to Screen Adaptation” masterclass for participants who are interested in adapting their stories for different mediums. The speakers include Peter Herbert and Dr Pieter Aquilia from AFTRS and film producer Lisa Hoppe. 

Free Events at AFCC

In addition, the public can attend a number of events for free at AFCC with registration, including book launches and the Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award (HABA) ceremony. The festival will present 14 new titles across nine virtual book launch events on 26 and 27 of September from 11.30am to 5pm and from 1pm to 6.30pm respectively. In commemoration of its partnership with its former Countries of Focus, AFCC will launch Our Folktales: The All-time Favourite Folktales of Asia, a regional collaborative anthology that features illustrated folktales from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines and Singapore. The book launch will be streamed live on AFCC’s Facebook on 3 October 6.30pm.

Closing the festival is the Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award ceremony on 4 October at 6pm. The winner of the biennial literary award, which recognises the best children’s literature in English, will be revealed at the livestreamed event on AFCC’s Facebook page.

Event details

Date: Digital Symposium on 3-4 October 2020, masterclasses, workshops and pitching sessions on 2 October 2020

Venue: Online live Zoom Sessions

Ticketing Information:

Ticketing website:

All participants will receive a certificate of participation upon request.