Back to one of my favorite things to rant about. Arabic children books.
I’ve been helping out a little with teaching my 2nd grade kid with Arabic reading. Now don’t get me started about the official curriculum for Jordanian second graders. But I will say this much: the design is horrible. And I’ve been comparing how Arabic and English books teach reading and even I, as non-expert, can tell you that there is something wrong with the way Arabic is taught.
But let’s leave the Ministry curriculum in peace.
My kids’ school sends children books with them to read at home. They expect kids to read them with parents and there is a sheet I have to sign stating that the book was actually read. Good, commendable practice.
But this evening I was basically dealing with a piece of junk of a book.
When your kids’ mind wanders off the story and starts noticing typographic errors, missing pages and the low quality of illustrations, then something is definitely wrong.
This book had it all. Arabic words stretched to infinity and beyond to fill a line (dad, why did they stretch that word this long?)! Confusing name of the main character which sounded like the name of the animal he is, but not really (Sinjab, Sanjoob?)! Missing diacritics (harakat, which I started adding with a pencil)! Changing colors of the characters from page to page (dad, why is the squirrel now red?)
There is apparently an industry out there which produces books like these for schools. Schools buy them because they need “content” to fill the hours and schedules. And in the end, the same kids who are watching Pixar movies in 3D are expected to read such books.
Then we get some middle aged, balding guy in a grey suit in one of those Arabic Language and Heritage Conferences, moaning about the Western Cultural Invasion.
What a strange part of the world we’re living in. I think there are enough good writers out there. And there are good illustrators and artists. But who gets the job of producing my kids books? Some trashy publisher employing talentless morons as writers and illustrators.
Of course, some of those artists who could potentially change the landscape of Arabic children literature, are busy being angry about politics or doing abstract art or expressing their inner tormented souls or whatever.
It’s a disconnect that makes me angry.
There are some really good Arabic children books out there. In the 60’s and 70’s there were pioneers all over the Arab world who did great work.
But let me tell you this..
In my mind exists an imaginary country. Ruled, dictatorially, by one party: The Party of Children Progress. They have a brutal secret police that hunts down only one kind of traitors: people who have been involved in producing low quality children books. Publishers, writers, illustrators, printers. They get arrested in the middle of the night and thrown in jail for 10 years of hard labor or worse. TRAITORS!!