Reader Reeshiez recently wrote in, asking if we’d heard what had happened to the Abjad system of learning Arabic for children. Their website is (temporarily, it turns out) out of service, and I myself had noticed that their materials had been disappearing from Cairo bookstores.
For those unfamiliar with the Abjad system, you can read a short article about it in AUC Today magazine. I had heard the most about the magnetic and wooden letters—which, instead of being static, can swivel to change shape at different points in a word—but the system also includes write-on and wipe-off picture books, stories, workbooks, coloring books, whiteboards, audio cassettes, puzzles, animal pop-out cards, memory cards, posters, stickers and bilingual CDs of educational games.
Justin Mazjub, the system’s designer, created this letter- and sound-based system in response to a problem he noted with children’s Arabic-language learning:
One of the problems, Majzub explained, is that a standard approach to reading can encourage children to memorize complete words rather than break the word down into its individual sounds.”What you find is that once a child learns 2,000 or so words, their performance decreases rapidly, and this leaves both the child and the teacher at a loss as to what went wrong,” he noted.
So, where have the materials gone? Mazjub said the old materials have been pulled out of stores as new ones are coming. And the website is only temporarily out of service. He said, in an email:
As for the products in bookstores in Cairo – you are quite right, we have been withdrawing our old products from shops prior to launching our freshly designed product line. The new product line comes in boxes – each box covers a particular category in the Abjad system.