Sharjah 24: A UAE Board on Books For Young People (UAEBBY) delegation, led by its director, Marwa Al Aqroubi, is making valuable contributions to key global conversations on the power of stories recently at the 38th IBBY International Congress in Putrajaya, Malaysia.
The UAEBBY has highlighted its efforts and initiatives to promote both human and cultural values in Arabic speaking younger generations in the UAE and beyond through children’s literature and storytelling.
Inspired by the theme of the Congress ‘The Power of Stories’, Al Aqroubi has turned the spotlight on UAEBBY initiative, Kan Yama Kan (Once Upon a Time), and shared the ways in which the entity has brought the world of stories together with young readers, wherever they might be, in line with Sharjah’s strategy to elevate the role of books and reading to nurture conscientious generations of global citizens rooted strongly in their Arab identity and heritage.
Through the four pillars of Kan Yama Kan, namely, book collections, donations, bibliotherapy and training local authors and publishers in silent book production, the UAEBBY has leveraged the power of storytelling to shape positive beliefs and behaviours in children including young refugees and migrant Arabs who have faced trauma at a young age; advocated for change and connected people by bridging gaps through the application of universal themes that transcend nations and cultures.
Al Aqroubi, who also attended the opening ceremony of the IBBY Congress concluded her presentation, saying, “We believe in stories, and we believe they are capable of alleviating some of the suffering for children who are living in difficult situations. So our gift to them is books, and we hope they can give their imagination wings to fly into a brighter future.”
Part of the delegation was British artist and author Ella Berthoud who has led a series of UAEBBY workshops to train the first-ever batch of 14 professional bibliotherapists in the UAE.
“My goal is to help the children make sense of their own stories and build new stories for themselves”, Ella noted, lauding the UAEBBY for its efforts to introduce bibliotherapy to the Middle East, thereby giving authors, teachers and librarians a brand new creative avenue for using books and stories as a tool to heal trauma, especially in children and teenagers, and improve their mental wellbeing without causing any side effects.
Embedding national values in UAE’s young readers through children’s books
Mohamed Boufares, Head of library operations at Sharjah’s House of Wisdom, part of the delegation, presented on the role of contemporary children’s literature inspired by national values in shaping future leaders. Sharing that the UAE’s population of 10 million is comprised of 88 percent expatriates from over 200 nationalities, Boufares noted that while inculcating universal values in children and youth is key to promoting global citizenship, peace and tolerance, these universal values are better understood and applied by citizens who are rooted in their local heritage and proudly uphold their national values.
The role of children’s literature in imparting these national values, Mohamed further noted, is vital. “From the academic value of language learning and a forming a love for one’s mother tongue to exploring one's emotions, developing moral reasoning and cognitive control, and forming a strong national identity, the value of homegrown stories in promoting children’s development cannot be overstated”, he said.
The House of Wisdom also shared that through leading initiatives like the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature and Books - Made in the UAE led by the UAEBBY and the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, have supplemented the efforts of local publishers like the Kalimat Group, Al Hudhud, Sama, and several others to produce children’s literature steeped in the UAE’s national values. He elucidated this point with an example of a recent exploratory study of a random sample of 31 Arabic books published in the UAE. “A total of 90 values were identified in these books, including 28 national values and 16 unique national values”, he added.
The UAEBBY delegation also featured two accomplished, award winning Emirati authors, Dr. Alyazia Khalifa and Nadia Al Najjar who participated in several discussions to learn more about the latest developments in the international children's literature landscape and benefit from all the networking opportunities this global Congress presented to them.
September 14, 2022 / 7:14 PM
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