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Eminent authors call for diversity and representation in children’s literature at SCRF 2021

Seeing themselves represented in the pages of a book is both empowering and life-affirming for young children, say Swaady Martin and Huda Al Shawwa Qadoumi at Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival

Sharjah, UAE

Sallam Sallam

Two eminent authors speaking at the 12th edition of the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival have shared their dreams of a world where children could discover and develop their identities through books that celebrate shared cultures and differences.

At a cultural discussion titled, ‘Happiness Factory’, and moderated by Sally Mousa from Sharjah’s Pulse 95 Radio, Swaady Martin – a writer and one of Africa’s most recognised changemakers, and Huda Al Shawwa Qadoumi, an award-winning author from Kuwait, made a call for more stories that reflect the depth and breadth of human diversity.

For children to build up self-confidence and find happiness, what they read is important in defining their future lives as it empowers them to deal with the world as it is, said Martin, author of How the Land of Sorrow Became the Land of Joy.

She added: “In my stories I particularly focus on cultures who are largely underrepresented in children’s literature. When children of ethnic cultures find themselves within the pages of the books they read, it signals that their lives do matter; and they are valued. Our books must offer insights into the realities of kids in different socio-economic circumstances.”

Huda Qadoumi, author of The Birds’ Journey to Mount Qaf, said that by painting a picture of who they could become, books can also provide young girls and boys with role models and inspiration.

She said: “Today’s children do not need knights and princes or superheroes – young girls, for instance, need to see characters like themselves who can captain a ship, pilot the skies or be an inventor.

“Children’s literature must also represent marginalised populations and delve into deeper humanitarian topics to give young readers a better understanding of their world,” Qadoumi added.

Describing SCRF as a “bright example of upholding and celebrating the Arabic language”, the author reinforced the importance of drawing upon the rich material of ancient Arab literature to bring back the stories that are rooted in the culture and heritage of the region.

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