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Marwa Al Aqroubi: Arab Children’s books Began to Compete With Foreign Books

by | Oct 21, 2018 | Interviews

The UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY) announced, during its participation in the Frankfurt International Book Fair 2018, the short list of the titles nominated for the 10th edition of the Etisalat Children’s Book Award. The winners will be named at the opening ceremony of the 37th session of the Sharjah International Fair 2018.

Marwa Al Aqroubi, Chairman of UAEBBY, spoke to the “Nasher” about the final edition of the award while attending the Frankfurt International Book Fair.

What distinguishes this edition of the award from the previous editions?

Well, this year, the number of participations increased by about 6%, and also we saw a growth in the number of UAE publishers who ranked first, followed by publishers from Egypt and Lebanon. We received about 176 entries across children’s and adolescents’ books and interactive applications. We announced the short list of the titles nominated for the Etisalat Book Award, but unfortunately the interactive application category has been blocked due to the non-compliance of the participants with the terms of the award, so the Committee decided to block it this year. We will allocate the prize amount for this category to organize workshops for developers of children’s programs with a view to support them, and to promote children’s applications to upgrade them to global levels or at least the levels we would like to see in interactive children’s books.

What about audio books .. Do you receive this type of entries?

We currently do not accept these entries. Audio books are inspired by printed books, and turning the printed book into an audio work may be less of an effort than producing a paper book. Therefore, we mainly aim at developing printed versions at present. Over the years, the award has contributed to the development of this kind of books. We focus on content development because this is the primary goal of the award. The production of Arabic children’s books in the past has been limited to translated works or publications that do not live up to the global level. But now I believe the Arab publishers’ production have begun to compete with foreign books worldwide.

Do you think parents have begun to choose books for their children from the award-winning works?

Teachers may be more interested in this, and we have seen it through the interaction with the award in the book fairs in which we participate, especially the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival and the Sharjah Children’s Reading Fair. Teachers always ask us for lists of winning books in order to provide them in their libraries and schools. We also receive requests from many organizations asking us to announce where these books are available, and we do try to make them available everywhere in the world by encouraging publishers participating in the award to make them available for sale in e-shops, libraries and fairs. There is also interest from foreign publishers to translate these works, because they are looking for the best books in different languages to be translated into other languages, and we have many stories of success for books that won the award and translated into more than one language, which is an indirect marketing of the award. I believe our participation in fairs inside and outside the UAE such as London, Frankfurt and Paris help us promoting for the award and for publishers as well.

Is it plausible to say that the award had an encouraging role and now it has a reference or consultative role?

Very true, and that’s why we have organized an exhibition for all the winning books over the last few years. The exhibition will be held for the third time during our participation in the Sharjah International Book Fair 2018.

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