Participating publishers and authors at the seven-day Al Ain Book Festival noted that there has been greater awareness among parents to encourage a culture of reading among children.

This year’s edition, held under the theme ‘All Eyes on Al Ain’, offered more than 60,000 book titles by 150 exhibitors, all in a cultural atmosphere hosted by nine key locations across the city of Al Ain till Saturday.

According to participating publishers, children’s books topped the list of best-sellers at the festival organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC), followed by novels, educational, history, and heritage books.

Leading publishers and young authors shared their experiences with Khaleej Times on a renewed focus on reading, children’s books and giving support to emerging local talents.

“Recently, we have witnessed a significant decline in the level of Arabic language proficiency among children. Parents are now aware of the danger it poses to their children’s future and their disconnection from the Arabic language and culture,” Dr Ahmed Farajallah, director of Bibliosmia House Publishing and Distribution, which was founded by his father in Dubai 35 years ago, said.

“Consequently, they have encouraged their children to improve their Arabic reading and writing skills, which, in turn, created greater demand for children’s books and edutainment content designed to boost Arabic language skills, as well as a resurgence in demand for paper books,” Dr Farajallah said, adding that his publishing house presented a collection of books authored by young Emirati authors. Amira Hassan, an author, said she had been writing short stories since her childhood. Four years ago, she started working towards her dream of becoming a published author. Now, with the support of Bibliosmia, she has four books about self-development in her name.

Mehyar Ali Kurdi, managing director of Mominoun Without Borders for Publishing and Distribution, noted a revitalisation in the publishing sector and book sales.

“Mominoun Without Borders is showcasing a special heritage book released for the festival, titled ‘Completing the Missing History of Al Ain’. We have a pioneering experience in publishing in the UAE, and there is a growing demand for books due to the increasing awareness among the population, as well as the rising purchasing power of individuals.”

Participating publishers included Dar Ramsa Publishing and Distribution, which presented its specialised publications focused on teaching and promoting the Emirati culture and dialect among expatriates in the country, as well as Emirati children whose parents are keen on teaching them their culture and dialect.

Dar Ramsa presented the book ‘Figurative Expressions about the Body in the Emirati Dialect’, which explains Emirati words and popular proverbs in the English language.

Abdullah Al Kaabi, director of Dar Ramsa, said: “There are books about Emirati heritage translated into 11 international languages, all aimed at widespread dissemination of Emirati culture. There are also children’s stories written in the Emirati dialect, which are popular and widely circulated among people of various nationalities interested in learning about Emirati culture.”

Dar Shms, which specialises in children’s and young adult literature, participated with 12 engaging stories written by Emirati children aged 8 to 13, in addition to another collection of stories written by author Haya Al Qasim, director of Dar Shms.

“I discovered remarkable talents while participating in various children’s writing workshops. With that in mind, I have made Dar Shms a space for professionally nurturing talents. Today, we have 12 Emirati writers focusing on various topics, including sustainability, heritage, and Emirati customs,” Al Qasim added.

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