Meet the Saudi storyteller who asks children to criticize her stories


Published: 2018-04-22 18:23

Last Updated: 2018-04-23 10:26

Children attentively listen to Ghadeer Yamani. (AN photo)
Children attentively listen to Ghadeer Yamani. (AN photo)
Roya News Source

Storytelling is a form of art, one that can inspire children and widen their imagination.

Saudi storyteller Ghadeer Yamani uses storytelling for another purpose: to teach young children important life values and critical thinking.

Yamani is the woman behind the creative Grandma Stories, an initiative she kicked off six years ago after returning home to Saudi Arabia from living abroad.

Before going home, the artist had read hundreds of stories in Arabic and English to more than 6,000 children of 15 nationalities across the Gulf.

“The idea of Grandma Stories was not an epiphany; it came to me after I saw how reading was a huge part of children’s life abroad. I used to see children reading in libraries, in bus stops, in hospitals — everywhere. I wanted to help spread reading culture in my society.

“I wanted children back home to love reading! And with the support of my husband and family, I think I was able to do this,” Yamani told Arab News.

Reading culture is becoming more commonplace in the Gulf, what with all the reading competitions, school contests and reading clubs on offer for kids.

“The interaction and excitement of families and children are amazing when it comes to story time,” said Yamani.

The title of Yamani’s initiative was inspired by her own grandma.

“When I was a child I used to visit my father’s grandmother in Madinah who had a phenomenal way of telling stories and riddles. I still remember how the entire family would get around her as she started telling her tales, and in an atmosphere filled with love and contentment.

“No one ever wanted her stories to finish and nothing could ever distract us while listening to her. That is exactly how I want children to feel in Grandma Stories story time.”

What makes Yamani’s storytelling time different is that she asks the children to criticize her stories and point out their strengths and weaknesses, to enable them to think critically and learn from them.

It isn’t easy for children to do that, but their advancement in such skills is what inspires her to keep on doing what she’s doing.

“The fondest moments throughout my years in storytelling have been when mothers come and tell me how their children used to be shy and reluctant but have started to become fluent and can express themselves well, and that Grandma Stories is the reason for this great progress.”