Where is Our Home?


 Presenter (s) Malak Abdel-Ghaffar, Co-Author of the Book, New York University Abu Dhabi; Ian Hoyt, Co-Author, New York University Abu Dhabi; Sara Pan Algarra, ElevatED President, New York University Abu Dhabi

Targeting children ages 5 to 7, this book uses simple English and Standard Arabic words, along with illustrations and visuals, to tell a story of a family having a conversation about the countries they call home. As most of this book’s audience are refugees, the message delivered is that regardless of the physical features of “home”, what matters the most is the people and not necessarily the place. Another theme that is focused on in this book is providing brief examples of tourist attractions, traditions, or rituals in that specific country. This would enrich children’s’ knowledge about these countries, in a lighthearted, meaningful and enjoyable way.

ElevatED seeks to foster an open dialogue on the topic of education reaching out to the NYU Abu Dhabi community through various activities and programs. It attempts to support members interested in education by providing workshops and inviting multiple speakers that address contemporary events affecting the field of education. In addition, it aims to enrich the understanding and execution of education in NYU Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates, and the global community by encouraging students and others to examine educational systems and techniques. Our Mission is to facilitate spaces of dialogue, exchange, and creation to think about education and ways to work on it. Our Vision is to contribute to the creation of a conscious and responsible student community, being a reference group for initiatives, ideas, and discussions related to education on campus.

At the beginning of the 2017-2018 Academic Year, ElevatED got the opportunity to start working in collaboration with the organization We Love Reading (WLR) in Jordan to develop a children’s book. We Love Reading “inspires children to read for fun through our research-backed read-aloud program, training local volunteers to read to children in their neighborhoods. Since 2006, WLR has expanded to over 50 countries around the world, founding 4300+ libraries in a diverse range of communities—rural and urban, as well as refugee camps. [Its] model remains focused on creating change at the local level by empowering people to be change-makers in their own communities. WLR believes that the best solutions develop within one’s own country and culture.”

With the mentorship of WLR and its founder, Dr. Rana Dajani and the continuous support of NYU Abu Dhabi’s Arabic Faculty, Prof. Khulood Kittaneh, students have been able to write a children’s book targeting ages 5 to 7. The goal of this project is to provide We Love Reading with another book for their shelf that will be distributed among children of limited resources in Jordan, including children in refugee camps. In addition, it will be part of the book packages used in their reading and storytelling workshops.

This project’s goal emphasizes WLR’s mission of providing children with hard vs. soft copy books. The hard copy book would also reach a higher percentage of students, as access to computers or technology in refugee camps in Jordan tends to be limited. In addition, extensive academic research shows the benefits of hard books over soft books. For instance, the scholar Kathryn Zickuhr’s study on printed books in a digital age found that “more than 9 in 10 parents of minor children [said] it is important to them that their children read print books —81% [said] it is ‘very important,’ and an additional 13% [said] it is ‘somewhat important.’ Very few [expressed that] having their children read print books ‘is not too important’ (3%) or ‘not important at all’ (3%).”1

We hope that this book reaches as many refugees as possible and generate a sense of belonging and a feeling of home to the children reading it. Moreover, it will also serve as an educational piece in bilingual literacy as the book is written in two important languages in the Middle Eastern Region and the world.

Where is Our Home? is written by Malak Abdel-Ghaffar and Ian Hoyt. It is illustrated by Davit Jintcharadze and translated by NYUAD ElevatED and Khulood Kitanneh. The ElevatED Board is led by Sara Pan Algarra as President, Maria Jose Alonso as Treasurer, Jude Al Sharif as Vice President, and Alicja Borzyszkowska as Head of Committee.

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