Doha, Qatar: This year, Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press (HBKU Press) marks the 52nd annual International Literacy Week with a renewed commitment to publishing books that educate, entertain and reflect the regional landscape.
September 8th was proclaimed International Literacy Day by UNESCO on November 17, 1965. Since then, an entire week around International Literacy Day is organized in cities throughout the world with the aim of highlighting the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies.
“HBKU Press has always been committed to promoting academia, literacy and innovation in the region,” explains Jameela Sultan Almass Aljassem, HBKU Press’s Arabic Editor. “For example, our repertoire of Children’s books boasts series that help children explore and understand different emotional issues. Through them, we hope to appeal to children’s sense of curiosity and promote literacy by speaking to them about topics and issues and emotions that they deal with.”
The Feeling Series, written by Sarah Medina, was written to help young readers to explore their emotions and how to handle them. Children explore the reasons why they may feel a particular emotion - happy, angry, sad, jealous, proud and caring - and the appropriate action to take when they experience such feelings. The clear text and colourful, amusing illustrations uses familiar situations to enhance children's understanding of their feelings and those of other people.
Another series published by HBKU Press, the Citizenship Series, introduce children to the character values that embody citizenship. The series includes several titles, including Being a Leader, Being Fair, Being Helpful, Being Honest, Following Rules, and Making Friends, that have been translated from the English books by Cassie Meyer.
“Most recently, we have been looking to publish books that are reflective of the region as a means to promote literacy as it has been established that when young readers can identify themselves in the book they are more likely to engage in the text and enjoy the experience of reading,” explains Aljassem.
Counting Qatar, written by Lulu Al-Muhannadi, is a pre-K counting book aims to teach children Arabic numerals from one to ten through pictures from Gulf culture, such as local animals and items found in Gulf homes since ancient times.
Al Jawhara Hassan Al-Thani, the Academic Affairs Coordinator at Pre-University Education, commends HBKU Press on this initiative, and encourages them to pursue the publication of these types of books.
“This is a great start to promoting literacy,” explains Al Thani. “When a child sees themselves represented in a book, whether in the text or in the pictures, they are initially encouraged to pick the book up off the shelve and start reading it.
“The next step will be to continue to appeal to kids, teens and adults by continuing to represent a variety of voices and narratives in literature that are identifiable and relatable, but that also include the universal experiences of humanity.”
Counting Qatar, the Feeling Series, and the Citizenship Series are available at local bookstores.