Dee White during a storytelling workshop for children at the Sharjah International Book Fair. Image Credit: Shafaat Shahbandari/Gulf News

Sharjah: Parents have to set an example if they want their children to develop the reading habit, says Australian children’s writer Dee White.

In the UAE to conduct storytelling workshops for children at the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), White is the author of 18 books and also an expert in getting people to read and write.

“Parents are role models for children. For children to read, parents have to read at home every day and more importantly, parents should read to children from a very early age and keep reading to them even if they grow up. That way, you develop an atmosphere of reading and learning at home,” said White, speaking to Gulf News ahead of her workshop on Tuesday evening.

White started writing children’s fiction as a young mother trying to tell stories to her children and interestingly, she continues to read to them even though they are young adults now.

“What we do in our family is choose a book together to read together: it’s so much fun. I have two boys who are now 20 and 22 and we sit together and read. We take turns reading the chapters, then we talk about it. This way, we also spend more time with each other,” White said.

‘Publishers are about making money’

Apart from developing the reading habit, helping them choose the right kind of books is also very important, said White, whose latest book ‘K9 Hereos’ — based on real stories about dogs rescuing people from emergency situations — is out now and available at SIBF.

“When it comes to children and young adults, it’s important for us to help them choose the right kind of books so that children grow up learning the right things about the world around them. Personally, I like to write stories about the human spirit and its triumph over adversity, and acts of kindness; it is important that children read such stories,” said White.

She added that there is varied literature available now for young adults and children right now. There is a lot of humour and focus on fun, as well as fantasy literature, but very little about the real world.

“Some of the books are being published because they will sell well. I must say, as authors we don’t have a lot of say in what gets published. What I write is something I really believe that children would want to know about, but it’s up to the publishers; for them, it’s mostly about making money,” she said.

The author said reality-based stories and inspirational books are more important than formal education, for children to develop balanced personalities.

“Good stories allow children to explore who they are. One of the reasons why I wanted to write the book about Muslims who saved Jewish children in the Second World War was because we have a lot racial prejudice against different communities in our societies and it’s really important to show all people as humans. I think these are the lessons that you can’t teach in a classroom,” White said, referring to her upcoming book which is about a real story of Muslim clerics saving Jewish Children in Paris.

White has penned 18 fiction and non-fiction titles for children and young adults, including the award-winning ‘Letters to Leonardo,’ ‘Hope for Hanna,’ ‘A Duel of Words’ and ‘Harry’s Goldfield Adventure.’