Third-Annual Literature Day Promotes Growth Through Reading

A day of fun and games shows how engaging literature can be.

By Hanan Nasser

English faculty members Luma Balaa (L) and Mounawar Abboushi (R) pictured with the winners of the Treasure Hunt (from left): Antony Gemayel, Serena Younes, Salma Yassine and George Saba.

The English Department, in collaboration with the Page Turners’ Club, organized its third-annual Literature Day on November 16 on Beirut campus, with games, a dramatic performance and a poetry slam competition.

Braving the rain, students huddled around booths near the Upper Gate to answer questions about Harry Potter, match titles to authors, and identify quotes by famous Arab figures in return for cookies. They were greeted by faculty, volunteers and club members dressed in literary-themed costumes courtesy of the Department of Communication Arts, which attracted the attention of passersby.

Associate Professor of English Studies Luma Balaa said the idea behind having this annual event is to show the fun side of literature and encourage students to read more.

“Many of the students are coming to their language arts courses not knowing the importance of literature. In literature, though it is fiction, there is also the truth,” she said, referring to the quote by Chinese author Gao Xingjian: “It is in literature that true life can be found.”

“Students don’t realize its importance. You can hardly find anyone who reads for pleasure. We just want them to realize that literature is fun. That’s all,” she added.

The event included a scavenger hunt that sent students across campus in search of clues. George Saba, Salma Yassine, Antony Gemayel, and Serena Younes won the game. Meanwhile, English majors performed a comedy sketch based on the short play Baby Factory by American writer and director Stephen Bittrich.

The day ended with a poetry slam in which 12 contestants from different majors recited their own works to a crowd of their peers and jury members, including Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature Kristiaan Aercke and English instructors Dana Hodeib-Eido and Hala Daouk. Literature Major Khaled Rajeh won first place.

“Spoken poetry events like this one are popping up all over Beirut nowadays, and it’s always heartening to see the younger generation take such an active interest in words and the things they can do with them,” Rajeh said.

“A lot of youngsters are being touched and moved by words, and this feeling is the starting point of any lifelong attachment to literature,” he added.  

Dr. Balaa said the idea behind the poetry slam is that “a lot of students write poetry and they come to us and say, ‘Would you like to read it?’ and they are shy about it.”

She added that faculty wanted to encourage students not only to read and write, but also to voice their ideas.

After a successful day, Dr. Aercke thanked those who withstood the weather to make it happen. “The event would not have been a success without the serious student involvement through the Page Turners’ Club as well as English-major students who volunteered throughout the morning.”