First Published: 2017-10-01

Innovative project stimulates children’s imagination
The project stresses the importance of reading and listening to stories in the formation of children’s consciousness and in stimulating their imagination.
Middle East Online

By Marwa al-A'sar - CAIRO

A child’s drawing for the “King Midas” tale

When Hala Mansour had difficulty find­ing new bedtime stories to tell her two children, she had an idea that has been devel­oped into a successful endeavour targeting mothers and children.

Hawadeet.net, a website estab­lished by Mansour almost two years ago, offers tales from the four cor­ners of the world in the form of vid­eos, narrated in Arabic in a simple and friendly way.

“It takes time and effort for moth­ers of young children to find a new story to tell every day. That is why I came up with the idea of sharing the stories and tales I have collect­ed with other (mothers),” Mansour said.

Children can listen to the tales whenever and wherever they wish.

“The idea of my project is to use the story as a means of enriching children’s imagination with human heritage,” Mansour said. “It is an at­tempt to attract them to different worlds in which expression is made through drawing, writing and story-telling.”

Folk stories and legends of peo­ples of the world are presented in the form of tales in Egyptian collo­quial dialect, with the target audi­ence of children aged 4-12.

The website includes fairy tales and stories from the Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia and the Arab world. It is a collection of narratives from around the world distributed among five clickable icons on the site, Mansour said.

“Each tale reflects the character­istics and traditions of the area to which it belongs. For example, Arab stories are mostly set in the desert while in European tales you find snow and ice,” she added.

“This is a project that our Arab culture lacks. It does not just offer tales in an attractive way. Rather, behind it you can find a critical eye in rewriting the tales,” award-win­ning novelist Sahar el-Mougy said of Hawadeet.net.

Even though well-known tales are also found on the website, some are narrated differently after being edited.

“We really need a critical mind that analyses and gives itself the right to intervene in the texts and edit them to offer children magnifi­cent art that frees their imagination and resists stereotypes and clichés,” said Mougy, who volunteered to narrate a number of tales.

“Editing stories was essential as some, for example, contained vio­lence or other negative aspects. So, we changed parts of the stories or their endings,” Mansour said. “Sev­eral people volunteered to help. Some edited stories while others narrated the tales in their voices.”

The pictures on the videos drawn by children are presented in each story in the form of slides.

“When you narrate a story to a child and he draws it on paper, that’s what I call an attempt to stim­ulate a child’s imagination and cre­ate something valuable,” Mansour said.

With Hawadeet.net, children can narrate the stories themselves or have people they choose tell the stories and record them on the web­site.

“I thought of allowing children, their parents, grandparents or any­one they like to narrate the tales in their voices and keep them on the website. I wish my late grand­mother could record me a story that I could keep on the website forever,” Mansour said.

Mansour’s 10-year-old daughter, Laila, said she enjoyed drawing characters for the tales more than playing with her iPad. Her 7-year old sister, Zeina, started working with their mother on the website one-and-a-half years ago. Zeina said she did lots of drawings, especially of her favourite character, a mermaid.

“It is really hard nowadays to keep children away from playing with electronic devices and watch­ing television but our project aimed to divert their interest and I believe that we have succeeded,” Mansour said.

Mansour said she plans to have workshops for children to draw tales and record them in their voices and possibly narrate them at public events.

“It will be really amazing if we train them to confront an audience and tell the stories themselves,” she said.

Marwa al-A’sar is a Cairo-based journalist.

This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.

 

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