Children’s literature deserves serious study, says researcher Yasmine Motawy

“There is a big gap between research in children’s literature and direct work with children by teachers, parents, publishers, artistic producers and institutional work.”

Yasmine Motawy Egyptian scholar and critic.

Motawy’s book “Stillness Between the Waves” analyzes a remarkable new wave of children’s picture books that have been published over the past two decades. She digs into what these books say about society and its values, and places them in a larger historical and semantic framework.

“A few years before starting my doctorate. studies, in 2008 children’s literature in the Arab world experienced a great renaissance,” she said. “It was the result of the coincidence of many social and political factors that I discuss in my book.”

It was clear that the children’s literature scene in Egypt was at a “turning point” in terms of quantity, quality, support and interest, she said. This sparked in her the enthusiasm to participate in shaping the future of this field.

Writing the book posed many challenges, Motawy said.

There were studies that categorized and counted children’s books and encouraged journalistic reviews of this literature. Still, she felt the scene needed a “critical review that treats children’s books as an important cultural and educational product – one that is written, published, and read within an economic, historical, political, and artistic context, that influences contemporary culture and is influenced by it.

“It can allow us to see the scene and talk about it in a broad and new way, opening doors, asking questions and creating a movement of laudable impact.”

A gap between research and institutional work

From his perspective as an academic, author and jury member, Motawy talks about the reality of children’s literature in the Arab world.

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