One of the main priorities set by the Children’s Literature programme is to enhance children’s imagination, creativity and critical thinking so that they have a chance to become a vital part of society.
Reading empowers children
Diakonia and its partners’ experience shows that creative, respected and analytical children will be empowered to contribute to a dynamic and democratic society as adults. These abilities can be promoted if children adopt reading habits in early childhood.
Gives culture a value
Developing reading habits in children also encourages a growth of capacity for cultural production. Encouraging children to value old cultural traditions and embrace new ones gives children their place in society and enriches their respect for human rights, co-existence, and special and cultural tolerance.
Not enough books available
The Children’s Literature programme in the West Bank and Gaza strip started in 1992 as a result of a general dissatisfaction with the reading habits of Palestinian children. One study showed that children had scant opportunities to develop their reading habits because too few books were available and too few schools had teachers trained in transferring knowledge about children’s literature.
Started with a distribution of books
The Children's Literature programme started with a distribution of books that were translated from Swedish into Arabic as well as books written by local writers. Roughly 200,000 books, such as Pippi Longstocking and Alfons, were distributed to Palestinian schools and libraries and in that way made available for children to read.
Involved the teachers
Soon enough, the distribution alone was not sufficient. More voices were heard which emphasised a necessity for training of teachers that would give children an opportunity to have a better understanding of stories and books they were given.
With Diakonia’s assistance, roughly 4000 teachers have been trained, as well as about 220 trainers who will continue to train teachers for generations to come (2009).
The main achievements in the programme are:
National plan for children's literature
Two Palestinian ministries, Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Education and Higher Education, have been an active part of the programme making a national plan for children's literature that will include literature for children into school curricula.
The programme counts more than ten partner organisations, each of which plays a crucial role in developing new reading generations in Palestine.