As part of the expanded cultural outreach agenda of the 12th edition of the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF), Prominent cultural experts have highlighted the role of children’s books in introducing young readers to global cultures and creating young climate change champions through stories that address topics such as sustainability and environment, at a panel discussion hosted at the Al Safa Art and Design Library in Dubai.
The session titled ‘You Can Change the World’, hosted Fatima Sultan Al Mazrouei, award-winning Emirati author, novelist, poet and storyteller, and Ambika Anand Prokop, founder and lead writer of adventure book series, Greenfeet Guides, and author of Dubai-UAE Kids, and was moderated by Emirati writer Eman Al Yousuf.
Shedding light on her experience in providing training workshops on writing stories, novels and children’s stories, Fatima Sultan said: “When I conducted several workshops during the coronavirus pandemic, I thought that kids would not understand the situation or engage with me. On the contrary, their active interaction was evidence of their desire to read and listen to stories that ignite their imaginations.”
Fatima Sultan pointed out that writing for children is continuously evolving as the questions children ask today are different from that of the previous generations. “Writing for children is not an easy task as it must cater to the shift in the nature of topics that interest children today, including space, nature, and the environment, to name a few.”
She added: “Today, children need to understand topics that relate to their world. Most of them think about space, planets, and galaxies. Traditional stories about magic, giants, and speaking animals do not hold their attention as before.”
Shedding light on her experience in writing for children, Ambika Anand said: “Over the years, I had to travel around the world on account of my husband’s work, and it helped me explore many cultures that has inspired me to write my books. I discovered that a good story attracts not only children, but also adults, and this has made me believe that any culture can be introduced to people through stories.”
In response to a question on the impact of translation on broadening the scope of children’s books, she said: “I think that translation should not be unilateral either from English into Arabic or vice versa, but should be bilateral in a reciprocal process, because this contributes to enriching children’s knowledge about other cultures.”
She pointed out that sometimes key aspects of a story are lost in translation, stating that such loss is normal because languages are different.