Children’s Literature, a Window to Future; Read with Me travels to Afghanistan
August 2019 was one of the most violent months of Afghanistan in the past few years. War brought sorrow to the face of this country and its people once again. Yet, in the midst of explosions and desperation, 28 enthusiasts who love and care about Afghan children participated in Read with Me workshops in Kabul. Teachers, librarians, children’s book authors and social facilitators work hard to step towards hope, peace and knowledge in their children’s future.
By travelling to Afghanistan, a Read with Me facilitator made it easier for Iranian and Afghan reading promoters to connect. She held a 3-day workshop on Children’s Literature, Reading Aloud and Child-centered Libraries. These workshops were organized by ASCHIANA Foundation which created the opportunity to exchange knowledge and experience. It made us hopeful in continuing our cooperation for improving the conditions of children and young adults in this region.
In Autumn 2016, with the cooperation of Afghanistan Child Foundation, Read with Me covered a number of children and teachers in Mazar-i-Sharif. Also, in Summer 2018, we held online workshops on “Learning Phonological and Phonemic Awareness Skills” for tutors in Herat. But this year, for the first time, a Read with Me expert held workshops in Afghanistan in person.
These were the topics discussed in each workshop:
Topics of the two-day workshop on Children’s Literature and Reading Aloud – ۴-۵ September 2019
The difference between literary and non-literary texts
Introduction to children’s literature and literary genres
Introduction to Quality books
Picture books and visual reading
Introduction to Story Elements
How to hold Reading Aloud sessions and Reading Aloud techniques
Topics of the one-day workshop on Child-centered Libraries – ۸ September 2010
What does “Child-centered” mean?
How can you design a child-centered library?
What is a rich literacy environment?
What are the equipment, technical and public services of a child-centered library?
In between workshops, on 6 September 2019, Charmaghz and Book Cottage had a Summer Book Celebration planned in which promoters who had just been trained in the workshops immediately implemented their learnings by holing Reading Aloud sessions. The Read with Me expert also participated in this celebration. By reading aloud Elmer, she tried to introduce children and parents with this method of reading which was very well-received. A number of parents suggested holding a Reading Aloud workshop for mothers and fathers.
Participating in a meeting concerning children’s literature and reading promotion was one of the other purposes of this Read with Me expert. The meeting was held with the participation of representatives from children’s publishing houses and organizations such as ASCHIANA (IBBY in Afghanistan), Gahwara and ACKU publications. After introducing each organization and talking about their activities, the representatives discussed the challenges and problems they face regarding reading promotion in Afghanistan. Suggestions were made in order to overcome the challenges and to cooperate in the mutual activities.
The challenges mentioned included:
a lack of experienced authors and illustrators of children’s books, lack of facilities in high quality printing technologies, limited audience for buying the published books due to poor economy, publications’ lack of knowledge in the world’s children’s literature which leads to a poor choice of books for translation and most importantly, lack of librarianship majors in Afghanistan universities.
The solutions and suggestions discussed in the meeting were:
holding children’s book writing and illustration workshops, creating a website for introducing published books, pursuing the establishment of librarianship majors in the universities as well as holding annual or biennial book exhibitions, festivals or competitions regarding children’s literature. ASCHIANA Foudnation accepted the responsibility to pursue the feasibility of these suggestions.
Read with Me and Mahboba’s Promise
In her final days in Panjshir, our expert visited one of the four nurseries of Mahboba’s Promise organization in Afghanistan. This nursery has started its activities in 2003. Through one of the volunteers of this organization who has recently come to Afghanistan from Australia, a local library is supposed to be established in one of the more populated villages near this nursery. During her visit, our expert discussed the features of a child-centered library and the possibility of cooperation between Mahboba’s Promise and the Read with Me program.
Because of the ongoing struggles with war in Afghanistan, reading promotion and children’s literature is a new field in need of attention and development. We are hopeful that through the publishing houses and reading promotion groups that we met with in this journey, this field will grow and develop, benefiting the children and young adults of this country.
Click here to read more about Read with Me in Afghanistan