Today, Gulf News profiles children’s bok author Maitha Al Khayat, who has penned two children’s books (including I Love My Dad’s Long Beard, left) and is looking toward the YA market.
While I, of course, would prefer that children of the Arab diaspora read in Arabic, Al Khayat emphasizes that there is a lack of representations of observant Muslims in English-language children’s lit:
“Children of Arab immigrants in the West hardly find representatives or role models, whether it was television or literature. I faced that myself when I was a child in the UK. Some children even in the Middle East don’t want to read in Arabic for the strong influence western media has on them, especially through children media and literature.”
Not wanting to read in Arabic stems from a number of reasons—looming large among them is that it’s not sufficiently encouraged by (us) parents; we don’t have fun Arabic books around our houses.
Al Khayat acknowledges these problems as well, although I imagine the private schools she mentions below usually encourage reading in English:
“Certain private schools have incredible methods to encourage children to read. They have annual book fairs, a great library, weekly readings with students, plays that are their own rendition of their favourite stories, or a day to dress up as their favourite character from books and literature. All these are methods to encourage children to enjoy and appreciate reading and literature. I wish that government schools took these same initiatives to encourage the children. The parents shouldn’t be left out to. Parents should be personally involved with their children’s reading habits. Children will only be influenced by reading if they see their parents equally involved in it.”
And see their parents reading books, as well!