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Making Books Accessible

With the launch of her Islamic bookstore for children this summer, storyteller Sameera Shakil aims to tap into a niche segment in the books market.

Perhaps the only challenge greater than getting kids to read these days is finding reasonably priced books in the Kingdom. Sameera Shakil’s new business venture will resolve that problem for many parents who are looking for Islamic-themed children’s books. A resident of Bahrain for 20 years and mum-of-two, Sameera talks about her storytelling hobby and how that blossomed into a book business.

Woman This Month (WTM): How did you come up with this business idea?
August-2014_People4_01Sameera Shakil (SS): I enjoy telling stories to my two boys so much that last year I created a Facebook page titled ‘Islamic storytime in Bahrain’. Given the enthusiastic response from parents, I started doing weekly storytelling sessions at Budaiya, Riffa and Mahouz and found that even five-year-olds could retell the stories they’d heard from me.
Later on, while buying books for my children in India, the idea struck me. I launched a page called ‘Knowledge Nectar’ on Facebook, advertising the books from India. The huge interest convinced me to go forward.

WTM: Tell us about your bookstore.
SS: I’m opening Knowledge Nectar for children at Enma Mall. In addition to Islamic books in English, it will stock puzzles, mazes, card games in the form of quizzes, board games and gift boxes comprising children’s books. I’m in the process of signing up with Virgin Megastore and Lulu Hypermarket for distribution of Islamic-theme children’s books.

WTM: Has religion been an important part of your life?
SS: I’d say the intensity of my faith has gone up since I got married. But more than religion, I find reading Islamic books to my children is the easiest way to inculcate morals and values in them while they’re still young.
Though the Quran may be hard for them to comprehend, fables and anecdotes from the Prophet’s life and Islamic history works well for their understanding.

WTM: Books these days compete with electronic gadgets for children’s attention. How do you intend to meet the challenge?
SS: Children have a short attention span anyway. Only books that are colourful, with a lot of pictures, manage to grab their attention. My five-year-old puts away his mobile phone to look through my books, given their attractive design and images. I believe that interactive books will succeed in capturing their interest and enthusiasm.

WTM: The price of books is another deterrent in Bahrain.
SS: I agree. You don’t find reasonably priced books in any mall here. I know because I’ve looked everywhere. For this reason, prices for books at my store start at 400fils. In fact, my mission is to offer books to all children in Bahrain. I will keep the prices low so that everyone who wants to read can afford them.

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