Diverse Stories Matter - Uhibbook

“How important stories from diverse cultures are for children”

Diverse Stories Matter:

Sadia Anwar, founder Bismillah Buddies and Storically

As I had dinner at a beautiful restaurant in Jumeirah last night, I looked around and saw the people surrounding me: there was a Chinese couple sipping tea, totally engrossed in each other’s words laughing together; there was a lady in hijab sitting with another woman, her friend. The friend had long dark curly hair and the most intense red shade of lipstick I’ve ever seen. They were chatting away animatedly, as best friends do. At another table was a family who seemed to be British-Pakistani, grandma chasing the toddler and bribing them with sweets to get them to sit down at the table, while the mother held the baby. It was beautiful.

This is our world, a world of colour and diversity.

So why do stories, especially diverse stories, matter?

Stories are important. They are central to human communication. Telling stories sparks connections to cultures and histories; to legends and myths; to universal truths; to other people and, most importantly perhaps, to yourself. (Sadia Anwar, Author, publisher and entrepreneur)

In 1990, Rudina Sims Bishop wrote about “windows mirrors and sliding glass doors” as a concept that relates to children’s books. She says books should be:

  • Windows: that allow us to look into the realities of other people
  • Mirrors: that reflect our own lives and realities and
  • Sliding glass doors: so that readers can walk into a story and become a part of an experience outside their own immediate reality

This approach to children’s books and cultivating reading habits honours different cultures. It forms the basis of empathy and understanding. In a country like the UAE where more than 200 nationalities live and work together, building bridges and sharing each other experiences is key to having a rich experience.

Bishop also said “Literature transforms the human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection, we can see our own lives as a part of the larger human experience. Reading then, becomes a means of self-affirmation.”

Here are five simplified reasons why every child would benefit immensely from reading books that accurately reflect the diversity we see around us.

#1 – Build Empathy:

Reading diverse books helps children understand different cultures and enhances appreciation of others experiences. Empathy is the foundation of building deep meaningful relationships in our lives.

#2 – Increase Knowledge about the world:

Diverse books often come with specific cultural details and historic information as well. This helps heighten a childs’ general knowledge about the world. In a world where we work so closely together with people from different places, cultural awareness is important to success.

#3 – Break Stereotypes:

Dispelling misconceptions and generalized ideas about “other” people is the first step to building harmony in a world that is shrinking rapidly. Being able to see people beyond stereotypes, as someone just like yourself set the basis for a harmonious and just world.

#4 – Representation:

On the flip side, reading about yourself, and seeing people like yourself represented in a book is extremely empowering. It builds self-awareness and confidence in a child. Both of these traits are directly co-related to leadership skills and success in academics and future jobs.

#5 – Fun:

And let’s not forget, Diverse books are just plain fun. Learning about foods, celebrations and traditions in different cultures adds excitement and enriches our daily lives. Perhaps after reading about a recipe from Brazil from “My Ramadan Journal, Around the World” you make a new dessert tonight. Or perhaps reading about “Abdu’s Eid Wish” in After Iftar tales, makes you travel to Kerala to go on a treasure hunt!

Let’s build bridges and understand each other through our stories, through our commitment to include more diverse books into our reading lists.