Reading is as Important as Vegetable Eating!

A video series for those interested in knowing and evaluating the science.

Spoken Arabic 'aamiya' and written Arabic 'fusHa' are considerably different. Typically, children do not have a good command on fusHa before several years of schooling. Nevertheless, children's books are exclusively written in fusHa Arabic. This phenomenon of having two different varieties of a language is called Language Diglossia. Arabic Diglossia is a fact. Ignoring this fact is not the solution. Admitting, understanding & accepting Arabic diglossia, as well as taking it into account in the language of children’s books, can improve the culture of reading to children. This video series addresses different aspects of this topic and highlights the critical importance of producing children's books in the child's mother-tongue, aamiya, to be alongside the fusHa storybooks. (Note: Please refer to the web version of the website, on a desktop or a computer, to read  summary descriptions of each video. The summaries do not show on smart devices.)

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Intro Video: What Is Tuta-Tuta Initiative? & What Are the video Series About?

Tuta-Tuta initiative encourages reading to children from very young age and in the child’s mother-tongue, which is the colloquial Arabic dialect called 'aamiya'. This intro video highlights various ideas that will be discussed in more details in the video series “Reading is as Important as Vegetable Eating”, such as: What is read-aloud? What is a key purpose of reading to children? Do we only read to teach literacy? What are effective reading techniques? What is the academic definition of a child’s mother-tongue? Why is it important to read in the mother-tongue? How is the mother-tongue used in other countries? What are Transferable-Skills and what is Emergent Literacy (pre-literacy skills)? and How does competence in the mother-tongue serve learning new languages? (This video includes English Subtitles)

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Video (1): What Are Tuta-Tuta Free Online Stories?

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"Kan Yama Kan" is a collection of 8 international folktales in one book. The book is written in Egyptian aamiya rhymes and is sold on the website under ‘The Book’ tab. Besides this book, the website also provides free text translations of many popular English storybooks under the 'Online Stories' tab. The translated text, which is also written in Egyptian aamiya rhymes, can be used alongside the original English storybooks, as demonstrated on the page. Some parents, who do not have access to the original English books, have resorted to reading the translated text while referring to photos of the stories' characters. Photos of the characters were obtained by taking snapshots from the video narrations of the stories, which are all available on YouTube.

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Video (2): Do We Only read to Teach Literacy? What Does the Research Say?

The video discusses two recent studies. The first is by The American Pediatric Association (Mendelsohn et al 2018). It examines the impact of read-aloud (& play) on children's social and emotional development. The second study (Munzer et al 2019) compares the value of reading printed/physical books versus electronic books (e-books).

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Video (3): The Impact of Read-Aloud on Children's Brains & the Importance Soft Skills

The video discusses the results of three academic studies. The first study (Hutton et al 2018) compares three modes of presenting a story to children and the impact on their brains. The MRI images from the study show children’s brains when: reading a book, versus listening to an audiobook, versus watching an animated video of the book. The second study (Sosa 2015) compares the level of parent and child interaction during different kinds of play: reading a book together, versus using traditional toys (like blocks), versus when playing with electronic toys. The third study refers to research by the Nobel Prize winner Prof. James Heckman who finds that developing early social and emotional skills (soft skills) are critical for driving academic and life success (Heckman 2012). Video (5) in the series discusses how storybooks can help introduce soft skills to children.

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Video (4): Practical Guidance on Effective Ways to Read-Aloud

Read-aloud is not just about uttering written text. Many studies have presented effective ways of reading storybooks to children (Rao et al 2016, Mcgee et al 2007, Lane et al 2007). In line with the research, the video shares ideas on how to read to children, in addition to ways of discussing storybooks before, during & after reading. Effective reading helps develop different components of Emergent Literacy (pre-literacy skills) in young children. 

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Video (5): Developing Children's Soft Skills Through Read-Aloud

As a follow up to Video (3) and the findings of the Nobel Prize winner Prof. James Heckman, this video shows some examples of how storybooks can help introduce social skills to a young child, such as: cooperation, teamwork, empathy … etc.

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Video (6): The Scope of Children’s Books & the Importance Reading for Pleasure.

The video comprises of two parts. The first part introduces different types of children's books that serve different purposes (primarily for ages 0 to 8). For instance: leveled/graded reader books that children read themselves for literacy development; read-aloud picture books; read-aloud chapter books with less illustrations; fiction versus non-fiction books; rhyme books that help develop phonological awareness. The second part of the video discusses Reading for Pleasure as a key objective of read-aloud. The video outlines research on the critical role of Reading for Pleasure from the Ministry of Education in the UK (Clark et al 2006) and The OECD (Study 2002).

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Video (7): Five Facts to Know About Our Language "Arabic"

The video shares hard facts about the particular linguistic situation of the Arabic language. It explains what Arabic language diglossia is; how diglossia is different from bilingualism; how Arabic diglossia is distinct from most other diglossia in the world; why Arabic diglossia can be referred to as a case of "frozen" diglossia. The video also highlights real-life evidence that Arabic dialects are neither vulgar nor are the language for the uneducated - as claimed by some. Furthermore, the video outlines the definition of a mother-tongue from the perspective of children. Finally, it shares important findings from a quantitative study that calculates the extent of the difference between fusHa and aamiya for Kindergarten children (Saiegh-Haddad et al 2014).

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Video (8): Hey Egypt! We Can Sell More Children’s Books Than Sweden.

The video compares the children's book market in Egypt to the Swedish market. In a country the size of Egypt with 100 million people (of which 24% are 9 years old or younger) one would expect a more successful children's book market. Currently an average issue (print-run) of a new children’s book title is 1000 copies (or 2000 at max). Even if one was to only consider the 2 million children enrolled in the private school system in Egypt (PwC 2018/2019), book sales should be much higher. In light of the small size of book issues, the video also explains the reason for why the cost of books in Egypt are relatively high.

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Video (9): Why Do We Need Children’s Books in Aamiya? The Elephant in the Room.

The question addressed in this video is at the heart of the Tuta-Tuta intuitive. The video includes: (1) evidence that most adults do not read the fusHa text of children’s storybooks (neither parents, nor nursery & kindergarten teachers, and in many instances nor the authors who wrote the books). Most adults resort to the technique of on-the-spot translation from fusHa to aamiya; (2) a 3-minute video by McGraw Hill Education in which two education & literacy professors (Dr.Timothy Shanahan from University of Illinois Chicago & Dr. Douglas Fisher of San Diego State University) discuss the importance of print and reading the text during read-aloud; (3) reasons for on-the-spot translation and 7 limitations of this technique; and (4)​  a discussion of the unfounded claim that reading children’s books written in aamiya harms learning fusHa. Finally, presenting the idea that aamiya and fusHa storybooks should be regarded as complements and not substitutes. This video is also available in a summarized form, as parts A & B below.

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Video (9-A): Why Do We Need Children’s Books in Aamiya? The Elephant in the Room.

Video (9) Part (A), focuses on discussing a technique commonly used when reading Arabic children books. It entails adults having to constantly do an on-the-spot translation of the text from fusHa to aamiya. In many instances the actual fusHa text of the book is never read. The video discusses the reasons and seven limitations of this widespread phenomenon. (Please refer to Video (9), above, for more details)

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Video (9-B): Why Do We Need Children’s Books in Aamiya? The Elephant in the Room.

Video (9) Part (B), focuses on debunking the unfounded claim that reading children's books written in aamiya weakens their ability to learn fusHa.  Storybooks in aamiya and fusHa should be regarded as compliments and not substitutes. (Please refer to Video (9), above, for more details)

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Video (10): The Importance of Reading to Children for Their Brain Development.

A combination of videos by Dr. John Hutton on the critical importance of reading to children from birth. Dr. Hutton is a pediatrician and a clinical research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The videos are from his "Read Aloud 15 Minutes a Day" initiative . Arabic subtitles have been added to the videos by Tuta-Tuta. Dr. Hutton is the researcher of the MRI study discussed in Video (3).

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Video (11): Introducing the Book “Kan Yama Kan.”

A short video explaining the book “Kan Yam Kan”.  It includes a short demonstration on how to navigate Tuta-Tuta website to find the book customer reviews and to order the book from the site (or where to find it in  bookstores).

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Video (12): How & What Kinds of Books Can We Read to Newborns till 2 Years Old.

The video discusses what kinds of books can be read to newborns & toddlers: one-word/one-picture books? do they have to be board books or cloth books? electronic or musical-button books? do we only and specifically have to read a children’s book to a newborn? The video gives practical ideas on how and what to read newborns and younger children. It also highlights the importance of building the habit of read-aloud from very young age.

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Video (13): From Experts: Why read-aloud to older kids who already read?

Many parents think that once children know how to decode and read, there are no benefits to reading-aloud. Research shows otherwise. This video shares the findings of two studies on the topic “The potential impact of structured Read-Aloud on Middle School Reading Achievement” and “Tapping the Potential of Teacher Read-Aloud in Middle Schools.” It also includes talks by two literacy experts: Prof. Mem Fox and consultant Rebecca Bellingham.

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Video (14): International Reading Assessments: Why can’t Arab kids read Arabic well? 

The video discusses: (1) results from 4 assessments measuring the ability of Egyptian & Arab children to read in Arabic - for ages 9 to 12; (2) reasons provided by academic research on why reading levels are weak, including a discussion of the role language diglossia and vowelization (diacritic marks); (3) a comparison between Arabic Language school textbooks and storybooks published for children that age and a discussion of the discrepancy; and finally (4) highlighting the role of parents, authors and publishing houses in addressing these issues.

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Video (15): The Art & the Science of writing Classical Arabic in children’s Storybooks 

One main reason against writing in aamiya dialect is “to teach kids the fusHa language soonest.” In this video: (1) What does the academic research show about using fusha storybooks to teach the language to children? (2) What does it mean to choose “a kind of fusha” that suits the age of the child? (3) Examples from different Arabic storybooks, some showing “thoughtful” fusha choices while others “not so thoughtful”. How intentional or methodological were these language choices? (4) Examples of big respected Egyptian authors who acknowledged in their work that kids do not understand fusha (like: El Shoaroony, Adley Rizk Allah, & Mohamed Khalid Thabet); (5) Examples of writings by Kamel El Kilany, the leader of Arabic children Literature, showing a deliberation in language choice for young kids; (6) A critic of the new “Arabic 21” benchmark & challenging the component on simplifying the language for young kids; (7) examples from books in the UK & USA showing how vocabulary and expressions are altered when, for instance, a British children’s book is re-printed in America; (8) Finally, resources for those interested to write fusha in a way that helps our children learn and not hate it.