Friendly dragon: Ebtisam Al-Beiti’s stories breathe the fire of motivation - GulfToday

Friendly dragon: Ebtisam Al-Beiti’s stories breathe the fire of motivation

Ebtisam 2

Audience at Ebtisam Al-Beiti’s story telling session.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Ebtisam Al-Beiti is a published children’s author and early years professional. Her passion for education since high school turned her into a volunteer who read stories for preschool children even then. Working in managerial and teaching later inspired her to write books with strong educational messages for young readers. Her first book, Can I Go Out Now?, aims to teach young adults about environmental and health issues in a fun, playful and interactive way. Her second book, Citrus the Smoothie Sloth, sheds light on positive well-being and healthy eating through the charming tale of a special little rainforest sloth. Al-Beiti launched her third book, A Dragon Called Blue, this year, focusing on themes of family and self-belief, also for a younger audience.

She is a member of the Global Council, which works for achieving selected Sustainable Development Goals. She also collaborates with ELF Publishing, launched under the umbrella of the Emirates Literature Foundation (ELF), home of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Al-Beiti lives with her family in Dubai; she is not to be confused with her identical twin sister. She speaks to Gulf Today

What inspired you to write ‘A Dragon Called Blue’? What are its themes?

The idea for ‘A Dragon Called Blue’ came to me when I was visiting my twin sister in Edinburgh, Scotland. Surrounded by mythical creatures such as unicorns, dragons, and wizards, I felt inspired to write a story about a little dragon. The book explores the theme of change and how young children cope with it. It is designed for children as young as two and focuses on the various emotions associated with change. It is depicted through different coloured eggs, each representing a different emotion. The story aims to help young children understand and cope with the arrival of a younger sibling, as Blue is about to become a big sister and is unsure of the strange brown egg in her den.

Ebtisam 1 The cover of Ebtisam Al-Beiti’s latest book.

What message or lesson do you hope young readers will receive from ‘A Dragon Called Blue’?

I hope to help children understand how to deal with change and to remind them that even though change can be scary, there may be a beautiful surprise waiting for them at the end.

Do you think Emirati children’s literature is increasing its reach?

Definitely. Reading has become very important in the region, thanks to various government and private initiatives in schools and the educational sector. The UAE is establishing itself as a dominant force in the literary scene of the region, with activities such as reading months and reading festivals.

How has your background in education impacted your writing?

I credit much of my writing success to my background in education. It has provided me with a comprehensive understanding of early childhood development. My teaching experience has made it much easier for me to understand the stages of child development and to determine the educational messages I want to convey in my books.

How does being a member of the Global Council for Sustainable Development Goals influence you as a children’s author?

One of the initiatives I have been involved is ‘The Reading for Pleasure Project’, which was initiated by the Emirates Literature Foundation. I had the privilege of having my book ‘Can I Go Out Now?’ be part of its pilot phase, where thousands of government school children read my story and worked on various activities within the curriculum based on my book. I have organised school author visits, parent workshops and panel discussions.

Ebtisam Al-Beiti

Can you tell us about your collaboration with ELF Publishing?

ELF has been my rock of support since day one. Being a budding author comes with a lot of uncertainty, and ELF proved to be my mentor and guide right from the beginning. They always try and seek new talent in the region, and will always support authors who are passionate about developing a reading culture in the region. With them, I have gone on school tours, been part of the Emirates LitFest, and also had my first international book tour.

How has volunteering in special needs schools shaped your approach to writing for children?

Before becoming a teacher, I began by volunteering in special needs schools in Dubai. I felt it was important for me to work with children of all abilities. My experience has given me an advantage in meeting diverse needs.

How can stories be both entertaining and educational for young readers?

As C.S Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” I am always mindful of the adults reading the stories. I make sure that my books are something I would pick to read. My process is: I first write down what educational message I will be tackling; then comes the story.

How do you foster a love for reading and learning in young children?

What we often forget is that we are the role models. If we show children that story time is important, they will surely follow.

What is your message for young writers?

“Remember, there’s no right time to start. Once you have an idea, just begin writing. Even if it’s just scribbles in a notebook, that’s a good start.” I always carry a pen and a small notebook in my bag - you never know when inspiration will strike.

Related articles