Jordan, Lebanon, Syria
#BarakabilityBooks, Blogs & PoetryClassroom 2.0EducationLifestyleThe ArtsWellness Inside Out

These Kids Are Smiling Because They’re Holding Words To Live By

Syrian children in Karama Camp, Syria. Photo Credit: Books for Syria
Syrian children in Karama Camp, Syria. Photo Credit: Books for Syria
Book distribution in Turkey. Photo Credit: Books for Syria
Book distribution in Turkey. Photo Credit: Books for Syria
Book distribution in Turkey. Photo Credit: Books for Syria
Book distribution in Turkey. Photo Credit: Books for Syria
Page of illustrations by Sawsan Nourallah. Photo Credit: Books for Syria
Page of illustrations by Sawsan Nourallah. Photo Credit: Books for Syria

A brilliant technology is now empowering Syrian children to release the traumas they’ve endured over the last three years. What is this tool that’s treated 50,000 kids and counting?

It’s a book—now, in fact, three—created by Books for Syria and distributed in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, and it’s the core of bibliotherapy, which uses reading to relieve psychological stress disorders. Studies have proven that reading and discussing stories kids can identify with “helps them express their feelings and structure their speech,” says project lead Shada Al-Sayed.

Besides helping them learn English—all stories are bilingual, English and Arabic—“the books become one of the only things they really possess for themselves after having left everything behind,” Al-Sayed explains. “They read it over and over again and start opening up and putting words to their feelings,”—especially with Me and Him, a story in which “he” is fear itself—a black, dreadful character that absorbs all light.

“The themes of the books are always related to hope, optimism, fear, and so on, and there is much discussion after the reading sessions, which allows children to externalize their feelings and talk openly about their fears,” she adds. Like all the project’s books, it was developed by Syrian writers and illustrators specifically for a young Syrian readership.

Thankfully, the act of storytelling is innately empowering—as girls in Jordan’s Zaatari Refugee camp discovered. After listening to The Tent Flew Away, with illustrations projected on a white wall, they began eagerly creating new plot twists and endings to the story.

A fourth book, on first aid for children, is planned, pending funding. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of young readers are finding their own power to erase fear from their stories and create a new beginning.

For more information – www.booksforsyria.com

Show More

Jennifer MacKenzie

Poet, writer and teacher Jennifer MacKenzie grew up on Bloomcrest Dr. in Bloomfield Hills, MI, which inspired her to wonder about places with patterns other than floral. Following her education at Wesleyan University's College of Letters and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, she followed a zig-zag course that included a pilgrimage across the top of Spain and a long sojourn in Syria in pursuit of the language of Muhammad al-Maghout and Moudthaffar al-Nawwab. While in Damascus she completed the books of poems "Distant City" and "My Not-My Soldier" (forthcoming from Fence Books) and edited the magazine Syria Today. Her poems and essays can be found in numerous journals including the Kenyon Review online, Guernica, Quarterly West, and Lungfull. She currently lives in New York.

Related Articles

Close