In Arabic, Kitabna means “our book”. Kitabna aims to write, illustrate, and distribute bilingual Arabic‐English children’s books to refugee children who do not have access to education in Lebanon, Turkey, Syria and Iraq – link: http://www.kitabna.org/home.html
Firefly supported Kitabna with literacy training and project development. We helped Kitabna to distribute their books, while the project establishes itself as an initiative in its own right. Through book distribution, they hope to develop reading, writing, and teaching skills with young people in refugee camps; and Firefly looks forward in the future to purchasing these books for distribution to that purpose.
The story of the initiative began back in 2008 when its founder Helen Patuck, of Somerset, UK, was teaching English in Bangladesh. She found the books children were given to learn English from were often second-hand offerings from Western aid agencies and did not reflect the cultural or environmental realities of the children reading them. Taking a few basic ideas, Helen rewrote and illustrated a traditional folk tale she knew about working together towards a common goal: a meal to be shared. She used the names of the children in the school and set the story in their villages. This way, the English tale of The Giant Turnip became the Bangladeshi tale of The Giant Carrot, and is still read in the LAMB School Library in Parbatipur, Bangladesh, to this day.
Helen arrived in Lebanon in June 2014 to learn Arabic. She soon discovered that tens of thousands of Syrian children living in refugee camps could not afford access to Lebanese schools. Upon visiting refugee camps in the Beqaa Valley and discovering the number of children looking for stimulation and education, Helen started writing two books called The Giant Watermelon and Esraa’s Stories. It is from those efforts that Kitabna was born, an initiative to provide children’s books to as many refugees of war in the Middle East as possible.