By Anand Holla
What’s better than just telling children’s stories? Topping the list of answers to that question would be to also make children meet the person penning those stories. That is what the International School of London-Qatar (ISL-Q) has been diligently doing to inculcate in their students a deep-seated love for reading and nurture a mental playground for fascinating curiosities.
Fostering a life-long love of reading in their children is a high priority for most parents, and at ISL-Q teachers and librarians are said to work hard to support parents in this. Nerine Chalmers, Secondary School Librarian, ISL-Q, told Community, “We introduce students to a wide variety of authors and reading material, and we offer as many opportunities as possible for students to see themselves as readers and writers. One way we do this is by bringing in authors to share their stories, and to show students that the authors they love are people telling stories, in just the same way as our students do.”
Chalmers further explained, “ISL strongly supports literacy in all its forms, and we bring in authors in a variety of ways. We belong to a core group that advocates for literacy across all schools in Qatar by arranging workshops twice a year which are open to all teachers. In addition, that core group of five schools arranges an annual author visit for those five schools. This year’s author for that group was Margriet Ruurs, author of Stepping Stones – the amazing story of the experience of a Syrian refugee family.”
Some of the authors who have visited ISL-Q in the recent years are Richard Sobol, Hena Khan, Nick Cook, Noura al-Noman, Stan Cullimore, Mohana Rajakumar, Alan Durant, and Margriet Ruurs. A photojournalist who creates stories through photographs, fiction and non-fiction, Sobol has written about animals, people, places and buildings, all very appealing to students in today’s world where the camera is ubiquitous. Khan writes on Muslim themes, helping children all over the world understand Islam and the religious experiences of Ramadan and Eid as well as Islamic art. Cook is a science fiction writer who shared the first book in the trilogy Cloud Riders and fascinated students with a tornado machine, stories of storm chasers and airships.
Sharjah-based al-Noman writes science fiction for young adults in Arabic, while Qatar-based Rajakumar writes for both children and adults. Ruurs, who visited ISL-Q earlier this year, shared with students the process of writing and the love of reading, and Durant – who will be returning to Doha for a second visit – will soon be holding a writer’s workshop at ISL-Q. Titled “How to Write a Children’s Book”, the workshop will be on from 8:45am to 4pm on February 11, and the fee is QR350, which includes lunch and refreshments. The workshop is set to cover various aspects of children’s writing – getting inside a young mind, character, viewpoint and plotting.
Chalmers said, “ISL generally invites an additional two or three authors. Earlier in the year, Stan Cullimore visited the school to work with students, and in February, Alan Durant and Donavan Christopher will share their love or reading and writing with our students. Alan believes passionately in the importance of writing as self-expression and his focus is writing from real life experiences and interests. Donavan is a rap poet (Respect All People) and a dedicated advocate for social justice worldwide. His presentations and workshops are geared towards motivating and inspiring students to not only perform better in the classroom, but to become socially responsible members of a larger community.” While Durant will be visiting three schools in Doha, Christopher will be visiting only ISL-Q.
In an interview earlier this week, Durant told Community about some of the key aspects of writing stories for children, “The most important aspect of any story is not what happens but who it happens to, that is the characters. The main character, the one we identify with, in a children’s story, should be a child (or a child substitute such as an animal).” Emphasising on why reading is so integral to becoming a writer, Durant said, “Reading is so important. I tell this to children all the time, reinforcing what teachers and parents tell them. You cannot be an author if you aren’t a reader. We write books because we love reading them. It is never too early in a child’s life to share a book with them.”
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