2019/ 2020

Rouba Beydoun

Affiliated EUME Fellow

Gaps in Contextualised Arabic Children’s Literature

is interested in creating contextualised Arabic resources for young audiences that provide Middle Eastern children with a link to their direct environment, history, and modern culture. She has been working on making her research themes accessible to the young by writing illustrated children’s books, and producing open-source songs and animations. Rouba Beydoun received her Masters from the Department of International Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science (2010) and another Masters in Public Health from the American University of Beirut (2005). In 2018-2020, she was Director of Democracy Reporting International’s Libya Programme. She taught at the South Mediterranean University in Tunis. She has also been active in a number of initiatives to improve the body of Arabic children’s literature. She collaborates with specialised children’s literature publishers in Beirut and Amman.

Gaps in Contextualised Arabic Children’s Literature

The project explores the gaps in contextualised content in the currently available body of Arabic children’s literature. Context here can be spatial and/or historical and can be relayed in fiction as well as non-fiction resources. In fact, the majority of non-fiction books that are available in the market were translated from other languages and originally published in Europe and North America. Therefore, the information provided typically does not present young readers with a local perspective. A translated book on the history of science will give little to no credit to Middle Eastern astronomy or botany. Translated biographies of leading women in the world would include Zaha Hadid but would fail to make any reference to those who are not known to the West such as the poet Wallada Bint Al-Mustakfi of Andalusia and more modern writers such as Nazik al-Malaika of Iraq.

In the case of fiction books (which are mainly original works), the situation is much more nuanced as many can be considered contextualized (for example, through the use of local foods in the texts and illustrations that are inspired by traditional architecture). However, even in fiction books, many themes that would give more character to the content, remain ignored such as wildlife in the region, old (un)inherited mythology (with the exception of ancient Egyptian mythology), and some fascinating natural phenomena such as salt lakes, canyons, and marshes that are present throughout the region.

Rouba Beydoun attempts to fill some of these gaps by authoring non-fiction as well as fiction books addressing some of the absent themes she is researching.