Children’s Literature: Breathing a New Culture in Our Future [Archives:1998/44/Culture]

November 2 1998


Khairiyah Al-Shabibi, 
Yemen Times

Attention has increasingly been focussing on how society fills the mind of children. “How we ‘feed’ our children today is going to shape how they think, and even how they live in the future,” said Ms. Najeeba Haddad, Director of the Children’s Literature Department at the Ministry of Culture. 
This new orientation has resulted in more work in this field at many levels. One such effort was a workshop for people working in children’s rights which was held from October 14 to 16. It was attended by the Minister of Culture and Tourism and many Yemeni writers and authors. 
The papers presented at the workshop were: 
1. Developing Children’s Talents 
2. Childhood, Hopes & Ambitions 
3. Media and Child Rights 
4. Cultural Identity & National and Human Values 
5. Child Literature and Future 
6. A workshop about the Convention of the Child’s Rights 
7. Child Literature & Yemeni Writers 
“The press plays a major role in promoting children’s rights,” the minister insisted. He asked for the media to play its constructive role in this field. 
He also pointed to articles 13 and 17 of the Rights of the Child Convention, which he said should be fully implemented. 

A paper submitted by Noriya Abdulrahman Al-Rada’ee indicated, “Issues dealt with by children’s magazines should help build up children’s characters, socially, culturally, emotionally, and psychologically. However, comic magazines appeared late in Yemen. All other magazines and newspapers concentrated totally on political issues.” 
Al-Hodhod, the first Yemeni children’s comic magazine, was issued in 1980. Published by the Ministry of Education in Aden, “Wadah” magazine was issued in 1983. Then, Dar Al-Hamdani in Aden published a comics magazine named “Nashwan.” Other magazines like “Al-Haris Al-Saghir” and “Al-Bara’em” appeared in Aden during 1984. Unfortunately, no more than 10 issues of each of those magazines were published. 

After the nation’s unification in 1990, only one issue of “Waddah” magazine was published. Then it stopped again. “Osama,” a new magazine, then came onto the market. This magazine continues to be issued until now, though irregularly. In 1992, 3 magazines – “Al-Yemen Al-Sa’aeed, Thee Yazan, and Nadir” appeared. Because these magazines were not financially viable, they also stopped after one issue of each. 
In 1993, “Al-Tafoolah” newspaper came into existence. Its editor-in-chief was Ms. Najeeba Haddad. Unfortunately, this newspaper lacking financial support, also disappeared after only one issue. 
Shared Objectives 
All children’s magazines mentioned were mainly concerned with the following: 
1. Instilling Islamic and human values such as integrity, heroism, honesty, solidarity and sacrifice – in the child readers’ characters; 
2. Eradicating backward legends and superstitions from children’s minds; 
3. Instilling good attitudes towards work, responsibility and family among children; 
4. Developing children’s taste of beauty and art and encouraging them to practice hobbies in order to develop their abilities; 
5. Giving children an optimistic view of the future; 
6. Improving cooperation between home and school in order to better serve the children’s rights. 
Shared Problems 
1. Most comics were irregularly published. At the end, they all ceased publication because they were not financially supported. 
2. They did not give children real lessons about society and life. 
3. The magazines’ staff had no experience in the field of children’s literature, making the comics poorly edited and directed. 
4. They were printed on bad-quality paper. 
5. Copies were only distributed in main cities. 
6. Almost all magazines dealt with folklore and ancient stories. They did not address certain contemporary issues. 
The participants observed that there are no real comic magazine in Yemen. Most are irregular and lack certain elements of children’s literature. 
The workshop was concluded with the following recommendations: 
1. providing children’s magazines with all necessary facilities and financial support; 
2. all children comic magazines must be regularly published; 
3. they should include short and interesting topics that present humane morals; 
4. magazines’ staff must include psychologists who know how to deal with children; 
5. color photos must be included in order to attract children; and 
6. a children’s magazine must include issues suitable for all ages.