Kharareef Heritage Storytellers launch the First Annual Fairytales & Fables competition in UAE schools


February 22, 2016

In an effort to inspire students to read, write, and explore their creativity as they delve into the art of the Emirati storytelling tradition, Brioné LaThrop, Faculty Advisor to the Kharareef Heritage Storytellers at Zayed University, announced the launch of its First Annual Fairytales and Fables from the UAE competition in various schools within the Emirates on February 19.

The contest is held in partnership with Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) and Sheikha AlYazia Bint Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan’s ZOWD Cultural Establishment (ZOWD).

ZOWD aims to cultivate natural curiosity, develop speech and language, and encourage reading from an early age that lasts a lifetime. According to Sheikha AlYazia: “A culture is only as strong as the stories that keep its people alive. So tell a story, and celebrate our Emirati heritage.”

SMCCU is a non-profit organization that strives to remove barriers between people of different nationalities and raise awareness of the local culture, customs, and religion of the UAE.  

Debbie Jaunich, SMCCU’s School Program Coordinator, said: “The SMCCU is keen to actively engage students in cultural initiatives that enhance and foster cultural understanding within our educational communities. The New Fairytales and Fables from the UAE Writing Competition not only encourages students to get to know the local culture, but makes them an active participant through story writing that addresses common values and characters in the Emirati traditions.”

Brioné, Instructor at the Academic Bridge Program and Creator of New Fairytales and Fables from the UAE, pointed out that the First Annual New Fairytales and Fables is not only an Emirati cultural literacy project, but also a reading literacy initiative.

“Zayed University is proud to partner with Sheikha AlYazia Bint Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan’s ZOWD Foundation and SMCCU on its implementation. For this initial competition, we plan to start with four categories, two in English and two in Arabic. The competition will be held for grades 7-12 with groupings in English for grades 7-9 and 10-12 and the same categories will apply in Arabic,” she said.

Each school will be responsible for hosting an internal storytelling. Only electronic submissions will be accepted until March 19.

“I advise writers to think about different behaviors they noted in and around the UAE that could catalyze their fairytale or fable character into action,” Brioné added.  

Students will be asked to compose their own fairytales and fables in 500 words or less, in Arabic or English. Stories should reflect the 40 themes of the competition, such as respect and integrity.  

Shamsa Al Taie, Director of Student Affairs at Zayed University, said: “The New Fairytales and Fables from the UAE Writing Competition supports our country’s youth initiatives in innovation, promotes creativity, critical thinking and most importantly our UAE identity.  It is important that we instill in our young generation the skills and knowledge to shape a future that promotes the unique culture and heritage of the UAE as members of the global community.”

For this reason, Zayed University students will have invaluable roles in this competition.

“The President of Kharareef Heritage Storytellers Club, Fatima Naser Al Mansouri, and the Vice President, Maysa Mohamed Al Jaberi, who are also writers/heritage storytellers, will serve on our panel of judges in the English and Arabic categories during the competition,” Brioné added.

Furthermore, “We Are Writers”, which is an integral part of the New Fairytales and Fables contest, allows every student who submits work for the competition to be published in a co-branded book for their school.  

“This way, every student is a winner. Scholastic Book Publishing’ We Are Writers self publishing book platform is a perfect complement to New Fairytales and Fables from the UAE’s goal of inspiring readers and writers as it strengthens the role of these iconic folkloric characters in Emirati storytelling tradition by preserving them in the written word,” Brioné added.

Nasif Kayed, Managing Director at SMCCU, pointed out that the Center is pleased to promote His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Year of Reading Initiatives by collaborating with Zayed University.

The SMCCU is pleased to partner with Zayed University Kharareef Heritage Storytelling Club and ZOWD Cultural Establishment to implement a one of a kind Writing Competition that promotes Arabic reading and writing within our schools. The SMCCU is part of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Global Initiatives whose aim is to empower our communities,” Kayed added.