JEDDAH: Children’s books can help to shape a child’s character — they are a fun and effective way to teach them important traits and how to act in certain scenarios — so the existence of Kadi and Ramadi, a Saudi publishing house specializing in children’s books, must surely be a force for good in the Kingdom.
It was established by Saudi publisher Thuraya Batterjee in 2006 and has published about 100 children’s books to date.
In 2007, Kadi and Ramadi, one of the few publishing houses in this market, received recognition for the quality of its work and was commissioned by the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information to put out the first edition of the “Saudi children books writers’ and Illustrators’ guide.”
Batterjee explained the meaning behind the name Kadi and Ramadi: “Kadi is a flower that grows widely in the south of Saudi Arabia. It is characterized by its beauty from the inside and out, and its aromatic fragrance. It needs special care for its roots to settle down in the soil, and then it lives for years in the most difficult circumstances.”
It was the source of Kadi and Ramadi’s inspiration, Batterjee said: “We care about the most intricate of details in the production stages of our children’s books, our literary projects. We prepare our projects to reach children for generations.”
Ramadi, meaning gray in Arabic, “is a combination of black and white, which symbolizes moderation (in our approach), which we desperately need in the (upbringing) and education of today’s Arab child.”
There is a common aim in all Kadi and Ramadi’s stories. “Our goal, since our first step in publishing, is to enrich the Arab child’s world with concepts and values in the form of indirect messages through literature,” Batterjee told Arab News.
It is also to “encourage the younger generation of Arab children to read in Arabic, and instill in them strong reading habits, and to fill the noticeable shortage in Arab libraries by publishing children’s stories that suit the needs of these times, written in the correct language, with high quality, and resembling Arab children and being interested in their concerns, also presenting the children’s views and taking into account their psychological needs.”
Children’s books can have a huge impact, she said. “Children’s stories are directly linked with upbringing. They are one of the best ways for educators/parents to correct bad behavior, simplify teaching values, assert self-confidence and personality development, or instill a new good habit.”
“Above everything else, it is a great method to enrich culture, develop a taste for the arts, teach critical thinking, research and analytical skills, and most of all develop our native language.”
“It widens horizons for children and broadens their imagination, innovation skills and creativity.
“The Arab child becomes a cultured individual, looking back at their history, and proud of their identity, and they will become a highly effective member in their homeland and the international world.”
One of Kadi and Ramadi’s books “Ala Raseh Reesha” (He has a feather on his head) — written by Saudi writer Albatool Kamal with illustrations by artist Ali Al-Zaini — teaches children to look inside themselves, where they will find amazing traits and what makes them unique.
“Children must learn to be confident, appreciate what they have, and look inside themselves to flourish, become more productive, feel more motivated, and make a difference. This book teaches us that everyone matters and deserves to be seen. We must never forget to respect each other’s differences.” Kamal said.
There is no harm if a child compares themselves with others, Batterjee said, “as long as they evaluate themselves, feel special and their drive to achieve comes from within. Then, comparing themselves to others will seem less important.”
“It portrays a realistic scene of social imbalance, where children in the story, who are born with feathers on their heads, are given an exaggerated preference. The other children compare themselves to them.”
“The children with feathers on their heads refuse to play or even interact with the other children. Then a stranger visits the village and sells these children a potion that would make feathers grow on their heads, and this disrupts the social rules that the children of the village have been used to for years.
“In the end, the children and adults realize that greatness comes from within. And what makes a person special is what they give to others and the society they live in.”
Another Kadi and Ramadi book — written by Moroccan writer Elhassane Benmouna containing illustrations by artist Reem Al-Askari — “Al-Da’asuqa Alati Faqadat Lawnaha” (The ladybird that lost her color”), combats bullying.
“The ladybird sees her loss of color as losing the meaning of life in a community, in the society which she has gotten used to with her mother, siblings and friends,” Benmouna said.
“It also meant the loss of what beauty means, in the case of this ladybird — the harmony between different colors: Black and red,” he said.
“There is no doubt that the idea of harmony between colors is strongly present in nature. The story is about renouncing racism, as beauty is achieved by all colors: Black, white, yellow or red.”
Batterjee added: “Children are free from all kinds of bias. They are very accepting of others and are able to coexist with those who are different. But the wrong type of upbringing and judgments inherited from society negatively effects children’s understanding and evaluating skills in most cases. The ladybird in the story lost her color without any clear reason. She was terrified because she does not resemble members of her family anymore.”
“Her own kind made fun of her, and other insects did too. And they all refused to include her in their group because of her appearance, as she looked different from them. The ladybird suffers for a while but does not give up. The story has a happy ending: Family members cooperate to help her, and don’t abandon her in her ordeal. The story tackles bullying in a gentle manner, and helps children understand the damage that can be caused when siding against the different person, and teaches them empathy,” she said.