Children’s Literature A Calling and a Responsibility
By: Suhail Ibrahim Esawi
Children’s stories instill ethical values within our students. In addition to entertainment, they teach children listening and concentration. Stories also introduce children to Arabic, which is a vital part of their identity and heritage. The issue here is how committed we are to deliver this art perfectly.
Are writers committed to the minimum standards of writing children’s stories considering style, content, language, and suitability? Do stories have implied messages or tackle pressing issues? Do writers check the correctness of language? Finally, do stories deserve to be published, read by children, and embraced by libraries?
What about publishers, do they consider and analyze a story before sending it to publishing taking into consideration the best interest of readers, especially children? It is a publisher’s right to profit. However, lowering books prices would enable more readers to buy them. Moreover, do publishers utilize modern marketing technologies to display books for a larger audience? Publishers should assume ethical and literary responsibility in front of readers and societies for publishing worthy books.
As for critics, they have a major responsibility to analyze books objectively without assaulting writers’ personalities, religions, or political orientations. Readers also have a responsibility to rate books and express their opinions to writers and publishing houses. Therefore, it is vital to publish the e-mail addresses of writers and publishing houses. Publishing houses, on the other hand, ought to publish all letters about any book on their websites accompanied with a picture and a brief about the book and its writer. Readers hereby, have a better chance to decide whether to read a book or not.
Are all children’s books nowadays worthy of publishing? Of course no, because of the following:
- Some books were published without any proofreading or examination of their content, style, and values.
- Some established writers and journalist published books for children but failed to simplify their language to suit young readers.
- Although some books are inappropriate for our children, they are published, marketed, and enforced for commercial motivations only.
- Very few local critics tackle children books with objective constructive reviews.
- Sometimes, unsuccessful works would get widespread just because they belong to famous children’s writers damaging readers, publishing houses, local literature, and the writers themselves.
- Some writers disapprove critiques, reviews, and ratings, although they serve the best interest of children, writers and publishers.
Disturbing Phenomena in Local Children’s Literature:
- Some stories have inappropriate or unsuitable language, style, or content for children.
- Some stories narrate or depict horrible scenes which frighten children and instill fear, defeatism, escapism, and opportunism in children. Children’s stories should encourage hope, hard work, selflessness, tolerance, honesty, and self-reliance, not depending on fortune and deception.
- Some stories are void of any meaningful ideas or events.
- Some children’s stories have too much symbolism for young minds to comprehend.
- Some stories use colloquial language which is a crime against Arabic and our children.
Positive Acknowledgeable phenomena:
- Children’s literature centers
- A number of local writers turned to writing for children but this is not an easy job. They need a lot of learning and practice.
- A number of cultural institutions, nonprofit organizations, and governmental bodies encourage local writers to write for children and distribute or buy their works.
- Schools are getting more involved in encouraging students to read. Many initiatives were adopted like The Young Reader, A Book’s Journey, and A Book in Every House. Moreover, schools are coordinating reading events with public libraries.
- High quality of publications considering printing, artistic direction, paper, and covers attract readers, keep the publications safe for a long time, and allow them to compete with foreign books.
- Magnificent graphics accompanying children’s books enable young children to better comprehend and simplify events. Certainly, graphics give life to texts. In fact, some great stories were wrongfully misjudged because of poor graphics.
- Governmental entities like ministries of education and children’s literature centers distribute children’s stories for very low prices even lower than cost prices. They also distribute free books in kindergartens.
- Translation movement is vital to enrich the Arabic library and offer fine literature to our children. However, writing, printing and translation rights should be reserved.
Local literature is witnessing a movement of openness to the Arabic world. It has performed a quantum leap since the nineties and is still improving. There is a growing interest in children’s literature among parents, schools, colleges, universities, writers, and publishing houses. This interest motivate us go forward offering the best because our children deserve the loveliest stories, which encompass human values, imagination, and Arabic gems with a charming and interesting style. Writers, publishers, critics, readers, literary journals, newspapers, and cultural institutions need to join efforts and assume responsibility for supporting local literature.