With camps canceled and other activities for children limited this summer, many work-at-home parents are eagerly seeking ways to occupy the kids and maybe inject a little learning into the long hot days.
There are thousands of English-language options in reading, science, math, and history available for young people. Unfortunately, there is far less available in Arabic or about Arab culture. The options have been growing, though, particularly in the past few months since the coronavirus shutdowns began.
Below are a few resources for busy parents, sorted by approximate age group.
Ages 3 to 6
Short videos: Reading, singing, and crafts
In the past few months, a number of short videos targeted at the youngest readers have appeared online.
First, the United Arab Emirates’ Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY) has been hosting wonderful five- to six-minute readings from acclaimed children’s book authors on Instagram. The program features readings from award-winning authors such as Abeer Al Taher, Rania Zbib Daher, Samar Mahfouz Barraj, and Taghreed Najjar. The videos are short and fun: Abeer Al Taher, for instance, reads from her award-winning A Very Naughty Cat alongside her own naughty cat. The readings can be found at instagram.com/uaebby. All of them are in Arabic.
Since she arrived in London at the end of 2012, the Syrian picture-book author and illustrator Nadine Kaadan has done frequent events in English and Arabic. She is the author of several award-winning picture books, including Answer Me, Leila; Tomorrow; and The Jasmine Sneeze. Recently, the Mosaic Rooms e-hosted Kaadan for activities around her book Answer Me, Leila, which she translated to English. Kaadan also included an art activity for young readers.
Small children will also enjoy Kaadan’s online readings of her English-language picture book The Jasmine Sneeze and the English translation of her book Tomorrow, about a boy named Yazan who can’t leave his home because of the war in Syria, and how he comes to terms with a life indoors. Kaadan’s publisher also has helped create a free guided-reading resource filled with activities to accompany the book.
Another great resource for little readers is the Jordanian publishing house Al Salwa Books. It has posted on YouTube a number of short readings, crafts and nursery rhymes as companions to its picture books. These include videos to go with the publisher’s popular Arabic Nursery Rhymes series.
Online reading games
For the youngest emerging readers, Sesame World has a handful of videos, activities and reading games available free online.
Book-subscription services are an excellent option for parents who don’t have access to an Arabic-language library and don’t know where to begin with creating an Arabic picture-book collection.
The “ArabiKids” service delivers curated Arabic books each month along with bookmarks, activity sheets, and other small surprises. It offers two services: a “Little Kids Box” for ages 3+, and a “Big Kids Box” for readers 6+.
The “Arabic Book a Month” club also delivers books monthly. Parents have the option of choosing books for readers ages 0-3, 4-8, 9-12, or “mixed ages.”
Free books online
Although not as satisfying as holding a picture book, the International Children’s Digital Library posts online children’s books in dozens of languages. The Arabic collection includes books inspired by the Egyptian TV show Bakkar as well as a few contemporary classics, such as Fatima Sharafeddine’s I’m Not Afraid, illustrated by Lena Merhej.
[Enjoying this article? Subscribe to our free newsletter.]