Taghreed Najjar: A Growing Awareness of the Importance of Literature for Young Readers

By Essayed Taha

With a portfolio spanning 4 decades, Taghreed Najjar is a multifaceted author who writes picture books, middle grade and young adult books. Her picture books have become classics that are read and enjoyed by generations, while her YA novels have found great success in addressing difficult subjects reflecting political and cultural realities in the region. 

In 2021, she won the Jordanian State Award for Children Literature. On the regional level, she is a several-time winner and shortlistee of the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature. Her most recent award was YA Book of the Year (2019) for her novel Whose Doll Is This? She has been a several-time nominee for the Astrid Lindgren and the Hans Andersen awards. 

Several of Najjar’s books have been recommended by the White Ravens and several have been translated to different languages, including English, Italian, Swedish, Danish, French, Turkish, Greek and Macedonian. 

Najjar is also the founder of Al Salwa Publishing House (1996), which focuses on books for children and young adults.

In response to the first question about the challenges she faced and how she adapted, Najjar wrote: 

“In the last few decades, we have made big strides in terms of content and the quality of books available for children. This is due to the growing awareness among today’s young parents of the importance of reading from a very early age. These parents are savvy and expect quality books for their children. Many schools have also come to realize that reading for fun in Arabic is important for the learning process. This has brought more demand for children’s books. When book sales improve, then more good books can be published.

“Awards have also contributed to improving the publishing industry and encouraged children to read. We still face many challenges. One of them is the need to produce a variety of good quality reading material for all ages. At our publishing house Al Salwa, we have addressed this need by publishing books for all the different stages of reading starting from the very young up to young adults. As for the learning poverty that many governments in the area are trying to address, we try to encourage reading in Arabic by engaging our readers and making sure the language is age appropriate for each stage.

As for the second question about what brings her happiness, Najjar responded: 

“As a child in a boarding school, I was an avid reader and books were my solace, kept me company, gave me pleasure, and taught me about the world. Nowadays, as a writer, I feel very privileged to be part of young people’s childhood memories through my books. It gives me great pleasure when kids tell me they enjoyed reading my books and are encouraged to read more, when parents stop me and thank me for the books that give pleasure to their children and encourage them to read more Arabic books.”

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