Liblilb, a UK-based publishing house focused on bringing books in spoken Arabic dialects to children, has launched the funding campaign for its first series of board books. The new publishing house — co-founded by Nada Sabet, Muhab Wahby and Mariam Ali-Puttergill — aims to “encourage children to read in their mother tongues” by “instilling a love of reading by providing inspiring, inclusive and diverse stories for Arabic-speaking children everywhere.”
As they note, there are relatively few children’s books published in spoken forms of Arabic. Publishers state a variety of reasons: books published in colloquials can be sold only into one market and not across the region; teachers and educators only want books that support fos7a, or literary Arabic; or as publishers it is their responsibility to educate children in literary Arabic, the dominant written language across the region.
Yet there have been a few publishing projects in recent years, such as Ossass-Stories and Tuta Tuta, that have brought out children’s literature in spoken Arabics. Both of these projects have garnered a small wave of media attention, and in 2020, Tuta Tuta reported that their picture book Kan Ya Ma Kan (Once Upon a Time) was a bestseller at the Diwan bookshop chain in Egypt.
Still, as of yet, there have been no board books in colloquial Arabics, nor — it seems — a publishing project that systematically attempts to build a library of children’s books in colloquial Arabics, starting with books for the very youngest readers.
Like Ossass-Stories, which set their first picture book in New York City, Liblib gives a particular nod to the Arab diaspora, writing that diglossia is particularly difficult for children who want to read in Arabic, “Especially if they are not immersed in the culture, as is the case with most Arabic-speaking diaspora communities in the UK and elsewhere.”
“In addition,” they write in a news release, “children’s books have to be able to compete with the quality and content produced in other languages. Liblib aims to solve both of these issues by publishing exciting children’s content in their spoken languages, standardising spelling conventions as it goes.”
While Liblib aims to eventually release books in every spoken Arabic variant, they are starting with that of the most populous country in the region: Egypt. The first set of board books introduce common words and concepts. After this, they plan “to move straight into publishing another edition of the board books in a second and third spoken Arabic variant, as well as launching a series of story books for slightly older children in Egyptian Arabic.”
Back in November, co-founder Nada Sabet said, in an interview with ArabLit, that they have high hopes for the Kickstarter campaign. They will begin with this, and by selling books online.
After that, we will be available in bookstores in countries where there is demand. But again, if we don’t make our kickstarter sales goals…we won’t have any books to send anywhere. So it’s very important that all the support we have found both online and offline so far translates into sales, in numbers that allow us to print. So in essence we are asking for backing now so that there is a later.
More on Liblib:
A Talk with Nada Sabet: On Launching Liblib, a Children’s Publishing House for Arabic Dialects
More on Ossass-Stories:
More on Tuta Tuta: