Mama Bookworm

Mrs. Eman AlGhawas on her mission to spread awareness of reading

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Mother goose is one of those fictional characters that fascinate us from kindergarten days. The old lady in her cape and hat, reading poems and stories to the kids, stays as the symbol of the greatness of reading to children. The kingdom of Bahrain is indeed lucky to have the young and vibrant Mrs. Eman AlGhawas, the founder of Bookworms, on a mission to spread the habit of reading. When BTW met Eman for the first time, she was surrounded by kids of all ages with their eyes shining bright with eagerness to get the rest of the story, as she continued to read to them in a dynamic style. Following are excerpts from the conversation we had with Eman.

The Beginning and the concept

“It all started back in the end of 2009 when I was googling ‘part-time jobs in Bahrain.’ I was on the hunt for a part time job that would allow flexibility as I wanted to do something fun and rewarding, and still be available for my own kids. Somehow part time jobs seemed non-existent at that time. But while browsing online I came across a preschool. The school offered many activities including football, cooking, ballet, etc. but didn’t have reading. That’s when this thought hit me, “I was an English major with work experience as a teacher, I loved children and wanted to include my own kids in my work, and I was passionate about reading.” I immediately contacted the principal who loved the idea and gave me the green signal. And so Bookworms was born.”

“Bookworms, Where Reading is Fun, creates storytelling events for children, in Arabic and English, that helps them to see just how much fun reading books can be! The idea behind Bookworms is to promote reading right from the start; to get children to fall in love with reading, hoping to turn them into voracious readers in the future.”

Cultivating the habit of reading

Reading cultivates imagination and broadens your horizon by allowing you to escape into different worlds even though you are sitting in the comfort of your own home. That is especially important for the children today, because they are living their lives through their gadgets (like TV, iPads, PSP, Xbox, etc.), that there is no room for them to use their brains to imagine anything.”

“From a religious standpoint, Muslims have always been encouraged to seek knowledge through reading. In fact the first word from the Quran that was revealed to the prophet Mohammed (pbuh) was the word IQRA, which means read (Surah Al-Alaq, 1). It is up to us to help our children fall in love with reading right from the beginning by regularly reading to them and surrounding them with books until they grow up and can read on their own; until reading becomes just as important to them as breathing, eating, and drinking.”

“I think the most important way to do that is by setting an example yourself as a parent. When children are surrounded by parents who are very passionate readers and who constantly have a book in their hands, they will surely believe in the importance of reading and grow up to enjoy it, because, after all, their highest role models were doing so.  I also strongly believe in the power of the “bed time” story. Spending that precious time bonding with your child over a book every night before he goes to sleep will create fond memories of the imaginative world of books that your child will grow up to want to recreate that world on his own by reading.”

“Being surrounded by other children who love stories in a fun group storytelling activity, will encourage your child to become more interested in reading. I highly encourage taking your children to the library and/or the bookstore regularly, even as a reward for good behavior instead of buying gifts or sweets.”

The practice of choosing right books

“For babies and toddlers, choose sturdy board books that have one or a few of the following: touch and feel textures, light and sound, lift-the-flaps, with puppets or toys attached, and with minimal words and more bright pictures.”

“For 2-4 year olds, start choosing more complex books about colors, letters and numbers, for example, and stories with topics that are suitable for that age, such as sharing, caring, sibling rivalry, new baby arrival, potty training, to name a few. From 5 years onwards, you can start choosing reading-level books that will help your child to read on her own. After they master one level, move on to the next, until your child is able to read short stories. Topics can cover whatever interests your child at that time and always make sure your child reads in both, his native and second language.”

“I love to read to little ones…”

“I think the book I have read the most is The Sandwich Swap, by Queen Rania. It is my favorite children’s book because it holds great social lessons while being humorous and dramatic enough.  I don’t have a specific method for choosing stories other than knowing by instinct what will or won’t work for storytelling. Certain books work well when being read one on one with your child in your lap. Other books are great for storytelling because they have just the right touch of humor and drama with enough dialogue, with a lesson to learn from, and/or a great punch line. If I can imagine myself reading the book in a fun way, which sometimes means singing it or acting it out to make it really exciting, then I don’t hesitate to buy it.”

“And our National Day is so special”

“I will be working with Sh. Latifa Daij Alkhalifa, the upcoming author of a new series of books called Ana Khalifa, the illustration of which was done by Ms. Jawaher AlAbsi. I will be reading the first book of the series, about national day, on the day of the book launch on December 6th, at 10:30 am, in Moda Mall, where Sh. Latifa will be signing her book in the presence of Mrs. Amal AlDossary, Vice chairperson – The committee on the rights of the child, United Nations. The event is open to the public and will include face painting and coloring for the kids along with Bookworms’ storytelling of course.”

Busy with gadgets?

“We are at a time in which technology rules. I say enjoy what technology has to offer when it comes to reading! Find reading apps, enjoy reading devices such as Kindle, listen to audio books, even watch YouTube videos of your favorite stories being read by different authors. Yet, nothing beats the feel of a real book in your hand; don’t miss out on that.”

To know more about The National Day event and other regular Bookworms events follow the Instagram account here