Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature Enhances the Skills of Digital Book Apps Developers

Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature (EA), the most important children’s literature prize in the Arab world, recently organised a three-day workshop on interactive media, during their participation at the Abu Dhabi Publishing Forum (ADPF) 2019,  to develop the skills of children’s book app developers who participated in the Award’s 10th edition.

Organised by the UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY) and sponsored by Etisalat Group, the 10th edition of Etisalat Award attracted 13 applications representing several countries in the region, including the UAE, KSA, Egypt, Lebanon and Kuwait. However, none of these entries won the Digital Book App of the Year category, as they were unable to meet the Award’s professional requirements.

EA’s management then decided to channel the AED100,000 cash prize allocated for the 10th edition’s Digital Book App of the Year category to conduct this workshop, which aims to support children’s app developers and enhance their skills, enabling them to create interactive applications that meet the needs of children and young adults.

Marwa Al Aqroubi, President of the UAEBBY, said: “Technology has several unique characteristics, which can be harnessed to build learned individuals and elevate their knowledge. Hence, the focus on increasing the number of high-quality interactive applications for children by developing the skills and expertise of developers is a manifestation of Etisalat Award’s strategy of utilising latest technologies to promote reading habits in children in ways that are fun, interactive and engaging.”

Linking popular learning theories with futuristic innovations

The workshop discussed key children’s development and growth approaches, as well as the latest technologies utilised in designing and creating interactive applications dedicated to children’s Arabic books and children’s activities in different age groups. The workshop also addressed key children learning and acquisition theories, in addition to showcasing the interactive media application that was developed by Lamsa Company.

The workshop was conducted by Badr Ward, CEO of Lamsa, the company that developed the application which won Etisalat Award’s Digital Book App of the Year category 2017, and a jury member of Etisalat Award’s 10th edition. He briefed the participants on the steps and techniques of developing interactive media applications and programmes, in Arabic, which considers the requirements of producing quality book apps that align with children’s learning capabilities and skills.

The workshop focused on children’s learning mechanisms, the importance of self-motivation, cognitive development and constructivism theory of learning by Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget and the impact of his theory on the art of app design.

The workshop concluded with several recommendations to further the success of designing and developing children’s books apps. The factors taken into consideration are ideation, content creation, tying in the central message, illustrations and animation, music selection, and finally, app testing.

Sponsored by Etisalat group and organised by the UAEBBY, Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature was launched to support and elevate children’s book industry in the Arab world and honours special titles that address topics the appeal to children’s interests and develop youth literature. It aims to motivate authors, illustrators and publishers to become more creative and innovative in Arabic children’s books publishing field.

“Kan Yama Kan” Provides over 500 Books to Indian School

To improve Indian children’s access to books, the UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY)’s Kan Yama Kan (KYK) initiative, has offered over 500 new books in literature, self-development, and more to the children of Naushera Mewat Public School, New Delhi, India.

These books have added to the 2,000-book library that the KYK initiative established in 2017 in the school, in collaboration with Etihad Airways. The selection of books were made by the UAEBBY to serve as a source of knowledge, entertainment, enlightenment and psychological support.

Marwa Al Aqroubi, President of the UAEBBY and the rest of the UAEBBY delegation were welcomed into the school by a performance by the students, which was followed by books distribution among children.

Marwa Al Aqroubi emphasised on the UAEBBY’s goal to bring children and books together, and help instill in them a love of reading and acquiring knowledge, and said the board’s participation in book fairs and other cultural events around the world similar help them reach their established targets through book donations and other cultural and literary activities.

She said: “Our visit aligns with the UAEBBY’s strategy to improve children’s access to books worldwide, especially in areas affected by conflict and unrest, through the KYK initiative. We were delighted to see how much the library we established in 2017 has been used and appreciated by the students of Naushera Mewat School, and were happy to add more than 500 high-quality books to this collection. This new venture furthers our commitment to promoting a culture of reading by offering interesting books in a variety of genres to children.”

“We also committedly follow-up on every initiative and project we launch in different communities around the world, as part of our commitment to ensure they have the intended impact, and also bring people together through books,” she added.

UAEBBY is the national branch of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). Operating in more than 77 countries, IBBY is the main board based in Switzerland and founded in 1953. The organisation is an international network of institutions and individuals from around the world who are committed to promoting and encouraging the culture of reading and bringing children and books together.

UAEBBY at ND World Book Fair: “Disability is More a State of Mind”

As the 27th New Delhi World Book Fair (NDWBF 2019) focuses on increasing societal awareness about the special needs community being an integral part of community, the UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY) has hosted a panel discussion to attract the attention of publishers and cultural institutions on the need to strengthen efforts to produce more high-quality content for children with different disabilities.

The panel titled ‘It’s Not a Magical Book’ was held at the Sharjah Pavilion on Monday (January 7), as part of the emirate’s participation as the books fair’s guest of honour and brought together Rawan Barakat from Jordan, who is dedicated to encouraging reading and appreciation of books in children, especially those who are visually impaired, and runs the Raneen Foundation; Mohamed Al Nabulsi from Sharjah Humanitarian City; child psychologist, writer and critic of children’s books, Dr. Ira Saxena; and Virbala Rastogi, a social worker who has dedicated herself to supporting differently abled children in India.

Talking about her experiences of working with children who are challenged by different disabilities, Rastogi observed: “Though there are several definitions of disability, I can just say that it’s a way of looking at people. I mainly work with children who have locomotive disability, or are impaired in their hearing, sight or speech. Just because most books are produced to serve mainstream readers, the needs of these children go unfulfilled. Not to say publishers, governments and NGOs worldwide haven’t come around to producing more accessible content in braille or other formats, but much is left to be desired by these children.”

“For instance, braille books are too heavy to be carried home, and most of them are too expensive for the average income-group parent in India to purchase. So, accessibility to good-quality reading materials remains a big problem for this segment of children even today,” she added.

Barakat went back to her life experiences, growing up as a visually impaired child in Jordan and the challenges she faced in accessing content she could read. “When I was a child, there was only one special primary school for visually challenged children that taught Braille. And audiobooks – they were unheard of. This was the main reason for me to start Raneen with my sister, because I wanted to bring stories alive for every child in the region who faced the same challenge as me.”

Rawan emphasised the need to integrate mainstream ideas and themes that are presented to regular children in books, into literature created for children with disabilities “We need to ask ourselves – when we love, we all love the same way; when we fight, everyone, disabled or otherwise, feels the same emotions. So, while we do need different formats of presenting content to these children in a way they can access and enjoy, my question is – do we need different content altogether? I certainly don’t think so.”

She also highlighted some of the biggest challenges that restrict the publication of content for children with special needs. These include, “high publication prices, lack of copyright security for such books, limited topics to talk about, and no special audiobooks applications for these children.”

All panellists agreed that more discussions need to be had between special needs experts, publishers and authors and illustrators, to find a solution to these and other challenges.

Al Nabulsi stressed on the need to use technology to benefit children with special needs. He said: “These children must be treated as equals, and one of the ways to do so is to introduce more technology-enabled and illustrations heavy books to schools libraries, so children with special needs can interact more with technology, while also benefit by its use and be on the same footing with their peers.”

Dr. Saxena highlighted the need to portray young characters in books who face certain disabilities. “Differences, natural or otherwise, have always been a source of conflict. As an author myself, I feel it is the duty of the entire writing community who write for special children to make them the protagonists of their stories. It is when these children see themselves as the heroes of a story that they will realise that they are no different from another child. By bringing them to the mainstream, we will also be doing the important work of making communities more aware that people with special needs are an integral part of their families and society at large.”