Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Arab Children’s Magazines under Criticism

Arab Children’s Magazines under Criticism

Thursday, 29 July, 2021 - 08:15

In her book "Values in Arab Children Magazines" recently issued by "Al Nabigha" Publishing house, Egyptian writer Najlaa Allam focuses on the need to encourage children on partaking in cultural activities, and to support and discover the talented among them, along with constantly providing public libraries with the latest releases, motivating journalism institutions and research entities interested in children content, and supporting them to issue new magazines that cover the little ones' cultural needs. She also called for reaching a joint mechanism to distribute children’s magazines across the Arab world.

Allam also believes that encouraging the freedom of speech among children would emphasize moral and social values in them, and positively affect their personalities. But she warned that "providing them with a sort of political and social awareness should meet their capacities, noting that correcting the concepts of rights and duties could be done through magazines that target them and aim to enhance the values that fit the spirit, traditions, and habits of the community."

Comprehensive bibliography

In her book's five chapters, the writer introduces a first-of-its-kind bibliography that explores children magazines issued in the Arab world between 1970 and 2000, and discusses their content, problems, and functions, with a special focus on contemporary magazines.

To examine values in contemporary Arab magazines targeting children, the writer reviewed magazines that are still available in the markets including "Majid," "Little Arab,"Alaa Eldin," "Qatr al-Nada," and "Samir." She assessed the structure of each one of them, and found that they are markedly similar and sometimes identical. When comparing them, she noticed that the visual patterns dominated the journalistic and literary content, as children magazines usually prioritize publishing illustrations on other materials. Some chose adventure and exciting topics, and sought to adjust children's behaviors by giving negative and positive examples, and some used caricatures for entertainment, like the "Alaa Eldin", "Qatr el-Nada", and "The Little Arab magazine, while "Samir" didn't use it at all. Educational caricatures are very rare.

Special style

Najlaa Allam sees that the five mentioned magazines have maintained a special style by using rich illustrations on most of their pages. Editors of "Majid" allocate a huge space for illustrations that comfort the child's eyes and entertain him. On the other hand, the writer noticed that "Samir" collaborates with the same artists from "Dar Al Hilal," who repeat the same images on most pages, which could lead to boredom among young readers. The "Qatr el-Nada" magazine has added a new spirit with the help of young artists, who constantly introduce new creative illustrations.

Alaa Eldine publishes various graphics signed by prominent artists as well. It is worth mentioning that "Majid," "Qatr el-Nada," and "The Little Arabic" dedicated pages to publish children drawings. In "Majid," they are displayed on the back cover under the title "Club of Painters"; in "The Little Arabic," they are found under the title "Club of Little Painters;" While "Qatr el-Nada" dedicated two whole pages titled "The Club of Artists." "Samir" and "Alaa Eldine" didn't show any interest in publishing children drawings.

According to the writer, most of the magazines provide high quality illustrations, and descriptive images related to the topics they cover.

Allam said the Arabic magazines have sought to highlight many values in several sections using literature, journalism, and visual art. For instance, "The Little Arabic" has always focused on the values of courage and generosity by reflecting them in the Little Arabic character. Readers can also enjoy the "My Scientific Role Model" section, which motivates kids to develop an advanced personality, and to engage in research and exploration.

Adventure and Smile

"The Little Arabic" highlights negative values in illustrated stories, like "Heroisms of Ayoub." Ayoub is a kid who pretends to be brave and courageous, but eventually has to admit to his friends that he is a liar. The story is suitable for children in middle and late childhood, who are capable of distinguishing the right and bad behaviors.

In most sections, "The Little Arabic" emphasizes values using literary works such as stories and poems, along with illustrations.

On the other hand, Allam found that "Alaa Eldine" wasn't interested in emphasizing good values in images and drawings, but focused on adventures and funny topics.

"Majid" has worked on teaching children specific values like good manners and generosity, while "Samir" preferred to use illustrated advices and recommendations to introduce children to some good values.

For its part, "Qatr el-Nada" sought to highlight different values in a section titled "Political Understandings," featuring clear explanations of many political concepts and terms that children usually hear in the media, or from older family members. This section focuses on nurturing the love of knowledge as well. The magazine also introduces the "Nobel Prize" section teaching children about prominent figures in the field of science and literature.

Editor Picks