Posted on March 28, 2020

Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press (HBKU Press) has come up with some creative ways to engage in literacy-centered activities with children and families amidst the ever-changing situation relating to COVID-19 that has thousands in Qatar practicing social distancing at home.

UNESCO defines literacy as “the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts.”

“HBKU Press is committed to providing our community with the resources they need to get through these challenging times. We continue to promote literacy as the key to develop knowledge and potential and as a means to participate fully in the community and wider society,” explains Muneera Saad Al-Romaihi, Community Outreach Specialist at HBKU Press. “We’re ensuring that our books are made available as eBooks and audiobooks so that access to a variety of literary options in Arabic and English across all genres is still available. And with this list we hope to promote the idea that literacy – reading and writing – can be an important bonding activity between children and their parents while at home together.”

Jameela Sultan Al Mass Al Jassem, Arabic Editor at HBKU Press, who also worked previously with the Ministry of Education in Qatar and was responsible for contributing to Arabic language curricula, acknowledges the challenges that this time brings. “We have to adapt our expectations of our children and of ourselves,” Al Jassem explains. “It is a difficult time for us all, and children especially may be impacted by the sudden change to their routine and the lack of a sense of normalcy. “And while across the board, schools in Qatar have stepped up to ensure that learning continues, this is a great opportunity for parents and children to make literacy an activity to be enjoyed together.”

For children, literacy can be a means of expression, a way to channel emotions into a therapeutic experience, a way to connect to other people, and even a way to comfort in times of distress. This is a perfect opportunity to get children engaged in literacy by taking it outside of the classroom and making it fun by integrating it into children’s daily lives.

Al Jassem suggests the following activities:

Drop Everything and Read (DEAR): Set aside time every day when everyone stops what he or she is doing and reads for fifteen minutes. Even parents. The idea is to turn the individual activity of reading into a shared experience. Take turns reading from the same book out loud. Have older kids read to younger kids and vice versa. It can be a great way to calm down if tensions are running high and it’s the perfect excuse for the whole family to cuddle on the couch.

Sharing favorites: Have each one of your kids make a list of their favorite books. Write them down on a separate piece of paper and have each member of the family draw a book from the lot. Then read your chosen book, either together as a family or apart. If you don’t have it at home, get it as an eBook online. When you’re done, talk about what you’ve read sharing what you liked or disliked about the book. This is a great way to expose each other to new reading material and ideas while bonding over classic stories.

Summary: Literacy is not just about reading, but about writing, too. Have your kids summarize what they’ve read and write it down in a log to share with their teachers when they get back to school. TIP: If you’re kids are too young, try re-enacting the story with homemade puppets based on the characters in the books. Use materials you find around the house – it doesn’t have to be fancy. Puppets can help children pay attention and encourage imaginative play. They are also a great way to help children learn new skills and concepts.

Aspiring authors: Now is the time for all young aspiring authors to put their pens to paper. Encourage your kids to think up creative stories and write them down. Don’t worry too much about spelling and grammar – just get those ideas flowing! Who knows when the next best-seller will be born?

Lessons in language: One of the biggest concerns in multi-lingual households is that one language always seems take precedence over the other. Try dedicating reading time to both Arabic and English language books, or books in other languages, to balance your children’s linguistic development.

“Now more than ever, we should use this time to be innovative, to promote literacy and a love of languages in new and exciting ways. We certainly have all the time in the world for it,” Al Jassem says. The catalog of HBKU Press books can be found online as eBooks on Amazon Kindle and Overdrive, or as audiobooks from Audible, Rawi Al-Kotob, Kitab Sawti, and StorySide. Hard copies of the books can be purchased through online retailers such as Jamalon and Book Depository and delivered to your door.

For more information on how to get a copy of your favorite HBKU Press book and for more ideas on how to encourage literacy, please follow us on our Facebook page (facebook.com/hbkupress) and on Twitter and Instagram (@hbkupress) for daily updates.

Categories: