Reader Comments: The (Arabic) Children’s Book Discussion, Continued

Poor Bibi has been tearing her hair at claims that the gap between the various 3meyas (local Arabic dialects) and fos’ha (standard literary Arabic) is anything unique in the world of languages.

She says: All children have to deal with a gap between spoken and written language, some children more than others. Village dialects, for instance, often differ from the written language a child learns.

The essential problem with Arabic children’s books, Bibi says, “is just poor writing and editing.”

Bodour al-Qasimi underlines the same point in her post, noting that: “writers need to step into the shoes of children when they are writing and make sure the topics and language are familiar and close to their personal experiences and emotions.”

Al-Qasimi, in a paper she presented at the Sharjah Reading Festival, also discusses some of the other hurdles to reading in the Arabic-speaking world: parents who believe that reading should be addressed in the schools and not at home, children who prefer DVDs and video games to books.

However, “Qifa Nabki” (Elias Muhanna) is hardly in this camp, nor is he alone: there are many concerned, book-loving parents who would like nothing more than to provide their children with good, (and fun!) literature in Arabic.

I applaud Kalimat and Bloomsbury Qatar for the steps they’re taking in this direction, but yella ba’a, we need more: more great books for all reading levels, Arabic children’s book guides/reviews for parents, better distribution, widespread story times, more incentives for children to read, children’s magazines, library access, an Arabic version of Starfall.Com.

And a pony. I want a pony.