IBBY-Yamada 2014: Lebanon

Workshop for writers and illustrators of books for children with special needs

An intensive five-day workshop was held in Dhour el Choueir, in the Lebanese mountains outside of Beirut, to discuss issues specific to writing and illustrating books for children with special needs.  Most Arab authors and illustrators have had little experience in writing in this area. The workshop was attended by writers and illustrators from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon and led by two well-known Swedish authors, Per Nilsson and Christina Wahldén. Ulla Lundberg, the former head of IBBY Sweden also attended.

Children’s books in the Arabic world have traditionally been quite difficult to read due to the many words and over-complicated messages and illustrations. This is even more so for children with special needs. “Easy to Read” books must involve few characters, be written in chronological order and in the present tense, and be no longer than five or six chapters. The stories need to repeat images and avoid metaphors, which can be too difficult for children to understand.

The workshop participants discussed these guidelines and did many written exercises. It was felt that the experience not only widened their perspective of books for children with special needs, but also would be useful in creating better quality children’s books in general. In addition, the participants made many new contacts and established new networks.