Muhammad Yusuf reports on a children’s book that’s fit reading for adults too!
“Salam!” says Zayoodi, presenting himself. “My name is Zayoodi. I am four years old and I am Emirati. During my adventures I learn about my heritage and my traditions. Explore the UAE with me!”
He adds he will celebrate the founding of his country but ... “I want to go to the pArADE AnD wAvE my lAG But I lost it”, he wails. “Can you HElp mE inD It?”
Of course we will and we do through a Q & A adventure where Zayoodi introduces us to the national DrEss, tHE nAtIonAl lAG AnD irEworks DurInG NAtIonAl Day celebrations, among other things. Originally from Belgium and raising an Emirati son in Abu Dhabi, Sillis felt her son Zayed wasn’t learning enough about the land in which he lived.
She thought that the nursery where her child went was too focused on Western Books. THErE wAs vEry lIttlE being taught about his own country.
She also discovered that Zayed responded more to stories she read out to HIm From tHE FEw Books on Emirati children she was able to access.
She decided to do something ABout It. THE rEsult wAs ‘ZAyooDI goes to the parade’ – not a day too soon, sInCE NAtIonAl DAy Is FAst ApproACHInG. THE Book tElls muCH more than a story – the authors intersperse it with questions, both during the narrative and during ClosE, to provokE A CHIlD’s CurIosIty.
For example, here are two of tHEm: Do you know In wHICH EmIrAtE you CurrEntly lIvE? HAvE you vIsItED Any otHEr EmIrAtE?
THE ConCEpt oF lEArnInG through fun has never been so delightfully established! Fifteen pages long, soft to touch (though hardbound), embellished with child friendly illustrations, the Book Is A must HAvE For kIDs AnD parents.
SIllIs tElls TImE Out tHE story oF How tHE Book CAmE to BE
* What is the inspiration BEHInD tHE Book?
THE storIEs ArE BAsED on A rEAl Emirati boy, my son Zayed and his experiences and adventures as a four-year-old boy.
When he started school, I notICED nonE oF tHE Books HE wAs BrInGInG BACk HomE wErE actually teaching him about UAE or his culture. I was then DEtErmInED to inD out IF suCH Books wErE AvAIlABlE In EnGlIsH language.
I DID inD FEw, But tHEy were mainly written for older CHIlDrEn. NonEtHElEss, HE EnJoyED lookInG At pICturEs and was very much engaged and eager to learn more about CHArACtErs tHAt lookED lIkE HIm.
My business partner, Dina NAHAs, motHEr oF two, Also FElt the need for her children to learn more about the country they were growing up in. ToGEtHEr, wE DECIDED to ill tHIs knowlEDGE GAp AnD CrEAtE Zayoodi’s Adventures!
All products from Zayoodi’s Adventures have one clear aim – teaching expat children in early primary school years about the UAE, its traditions and culture in a fun and interactive way. We also touch upon some basic Arabic vocabulary.
THE MInIstry oF EDuCAtIon has made it mandatory now for schools to include UAE’s history, culture and traditions in their social studies programme. Our products are perfect to be incorporated into this curriculum.
We are now on a mission to EnsurE tHAt our Book sErIEs reaches all classes and libraries of every nursery, school and home across the UAE.
* HOW DO YOU MARKET IT? WHAT HAS BEEN THE FEEDBACK?
We approach schools directly as we are self published and wE Do Book rEADInG sEssIons at nurseries and schools. We mArkEt oursElvEs on our vArIous social media accounts. Both schools and parents have been posItIvE ABout tHE Book. Our Book CurrEntly sElls At
- Early Starters, Abu Dhabi, 050 282 3689
- Bookworm, DuBAI 04 394 5770
- THE BooksHop, Al AIn, ABu DHABI, FuJAIrAH AnD RAs Al Khaimah 03 755 1500
* HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN AN AUTHOR IN THE UAE?
THIs Is our irst Book For both Dina and I; we enjoyed the JournEy tHIs Book HAs tAkEn us so far and we learned a lot as well.
I am a full time mother of tHrEE (All CHIlDrEn unDEr ivE years of age).
* WHAT ADVICE WILL YOU GIVE TO AUTHORS WHO WRITE FOR CHILDREN AGE GROUP 4 - 10?
You have to have a passion for writing and have a clear aim as to why you want to write a Book, I.E. wHAt DIFFErEntIAtEs
you from other authors. Choose topICs tHAt kIDs CAn rElAtE to and have a clear message.
* HOW CAN PARENTS BE INVOLVED IN DEVELOPING THE READING HABIT IN CHILDREN?
Our kIDs From younG AGE woulD oFtEn pICk up A Book AnD try to ImItAtE us By rEADInG. So IntroDuCInG Books from young age and getting them in the habit of reading is important. I would also encourage parents to read with their children before the bedtime.
* CAN YOU GIVE YOUR OPINION OF THE CHILDREN’S BOOKS PUBLISHING INDUSTRY IN THE UAE?
We are self-published so we haven’t dealt with the publishing industry here.
* WILL DIGITILISATION KILL THE PHYSICAL BOOK?
No AnD stuDIEs kEEp showing how screen time sHoulD BE mInImIsED; so Books are still the perfect alternative.
* ARE YOU ONLINING ‘ZAYOODI GOES TO THE PARADE’?
YEs; wE ArE on FACEBook, InstAGrAm AnD TwIttEr.
* WHAT IS THE NEXT SUBJECT YOU WILL WRITE ON?
‘ZAyooDI GoEs to tHE DEsErt’ Is tHE tItlE oF our nExt Book. It is about Zayoodi going on a family trip to the desert and readers also get introduced to the grandparents.
Zayoodi proudly holds up the National Flag.
Sarah Sillis and Zayed (left) with Dina Nahas.
UAE National Day falls on December 2.