Egypt Independent

Family Friday: Kallila and Dimna summer program



Combining fun and learning during the summer has always been a challenge for Egyptian families, who may often spend weeks searching for decent summer schools in their neighborhoods that offer simple, yet educational programs.

Children's bookstore and cultural center Kallila and Dimna (K&D) recently opened in Maadi to close that gap between fun and learning.

"If we want to crystallize our objectives in two words, it would be 'literate Egyptian'," owners Ahmed Hegazy and Nermeen Magdy told Al-Masry Al-Youm, interpreting 'literate' to indicate a wide awareness and understanding of different issues.

Magdy and Hegazy opened their bookstore and cultural center to work in parallel with schools to improve children's awareness and pride in their country and Arab roots.

The idea originated from Magdy's interest in compiling a database of informative books to help people navigate potential reading material.

"I then thought we shouldn't wait until [a reader] gets lost, we should start earlier with children," Magdy said.

K&D has a number of encyclopedias, as well as poetry, music, literature, religion and folklore books among other sections in Arabic, English and French, which are classified by  topic.

"Children should know who Ahmed Zewail is and other iconic Egyptian figures, this is not a luxury," Magdy said.

Parents may find it more difficult in recent years to get their kids off the Wii or the computer and engage in reading.

"This is because children run away from the classic library atmosphere, that's why we are very careful in choosing the books we sell to give the children a different definition of a library," she said.

Children can read during the time between different activities or they can walk or eat in the garden of K&D. Through the store's Discover Egypt program, children are introduced to the diversity and richness of various parts of the country through crafts and cooking rather than memorizing pages of a text book.

Shadow puppets are also employed to explain sophisticated literature or used as a fun craft.

"We chose this tool because it is deeply rooted in Arabic culture and we wanted the children to be better associated with our cultural content and atmosphere as well," Magdy said.

K&D's seasonal theme is Arabian Culture Summer, which focuses on regional poetry and literature. 

Poetry is an important component of Arabic literature and a rich source of Arabic language, but unfortunately, many children aren't exposed to it in school and parents may find it difficult to teach at home.   

"We give the children poetry this way so they get to really love poetry – they feel that they are part of the activity," explains Magdy.