Folktales, myths, and legends, and how they impact children’s personalities, were the focus of a fascinating discussion led recently by the Sharjah-based cultural initiative, Knowledge without Borders (KwB), at the ongoing 59th Bologna Children’s Book Fair (BCBF), where the emirate is being hosted as Guest of Honour.
Held at the Sharjah pavilion, the session was led by Maryam Al Qasimi, novelist and founder of Aram Publishing; Aisha Maghawour, Secretary General of the Arab Forum of Children’s Book Publishers; Italian writer Gracia Goethe, member of the Italy chapter of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), and was moderated by Mariam AlHammadi, manager of KWB.
Emphasising on the similarities in folktales across cultures, Maryam Al Qasimi said, “We all listened to folktales, whether from our region or Arabic translations of stories in other languages. Despite the differences related in setting or social structures, all these stories upheld similar moral values for children. This is what makes folktales an effective tool to develop young readers’ personalities, nurture their national identity and inculcate noble human values in them.”
“In my books, I focus on the revival of traditional crafts that have disappeared over time due to commercial production and the advancement of technology. Crafts reflect the true identity of a society and community dynamics of the particular period they were made in, making them central to a nation’s cultural identity,” she added.
Goethe noted, “Since we are discussing the importance of folktales in a cultural event hosted by Italy, it is necessary to mention the great Italian writer Italo Calvino who initiated a project to create an anthology of folktales from all regions and cities in Italy. Such efforts positively impact generations of readers as folktales are not only part of our past, but also of our present and future because they have always inspired us to be positive in the face of adversity. Folktales strengthen the relationship between human beings; they help them deal with their feelings such as fear, love, anxiety and hope.”
“I am very impressed by Arab culture and the efforts of Sharjah in particular. I aspire to open a library featuring multilingual resources in the emirate to offer children and youth the best books from around the world,” she added.
For her part, Aisha Maghawour said, “Folktales are not only for entertainment, but an effective tool for education, learning human values, and shaping positive behaviours in children and adults alike. They are not completely imaginary but rather a reflection of individual and collective human experiences.”
“Scientific studies reveal that stories have a therapeutic effect and help readers deal with stress and anxiety, helping them build a balanced and creative personality capable of dealing with the challenges they face. Stories strengthen family bonds and social relationships, and contribute to promoting creativity. They also inspire individuals to support various national and humanitarian causes,” Maghawour concluded.