Children learn languages through a beautiful blend of reality and fantasy.
On one hand, they learn to attach words to things and ideas through their senses of sight, hearing and touch.
On the other hand, they learn language through reading and listening to stories, fairy tales and fables—being flown through magical kingdoms, enchanted worlds and far-off lands where goodness reigns.
The same process can apply to us grown-ups while learning a new foreign language, especially Arabic. We learn to make simple attachments between the photo of the table we see in a flashcard and the word itself: “table.” With repetition, both children and adults begin to make those connections faster and more naturally.
After that, we employ our language skills to fly off on imaginative adventures through films, television shows and books. We imagine ourselves interacting with natives abroad, we close our eyes and practice speaking fluently to nobody.
While most adults get that first part of learning down right away—with textbooks, classes, flashcards and hard work—they often skip out on the second part, the one that relies on imagination and stories. If you start reading easy Arabic short stories, you can get yourself farther with the Arabic language faster than ever.
The Beauty of Arabic Short Stories for Children
Learning Arabic through the arts is a lovely path to your language acquisition, and it doesn’t just stop with reading a few short stories. You might try writing your own stories, painting, taking photographs, making collages or singing songs. But storytelling and reading short stories are just the simplest ways to brighten your tired, hardworking brain with joy, whimsy and illuminating knowledge—even while you’re still at the beginner level.
Short stories are highly regarded in the world of adult literature, but they also have an important role to play in children’s literature. They most often incorporate the key lessons and principles of life from their cultures of origin. They nourish a child’s ever-growing character and sense of right and wrong. They encourage the reader to imagine themselves as the hero, especially if the events of the story are more realistic.
These stories liberate children and adults alike from their own limitations, allowing us all to reside with leaders, superheroes and princes.
Who among us hasn’t snuck around the old library at home to take a grown-up look at their favorite childhood tales, just making sure their favorite characters are still there, doing their thing. Picking up a children’s book in a new language might arouse the same sense of nostalgia and comfort as your very own childhood tales—you’ll see similar language, similar characters, similar themes and similar levels of importance placed on morals, virtues and life lessons.
The best part, though, is that these lessons are all framed within a new language and culture, letting you see what writers believe is important to bestow upon children in their home countries. You’ll come closer to the stories that parents lovingly tell their children at night in their language. So, grab an Arabic children’s short story book and watch your language level rise.
Why Read Children’s Stories to Learn Arabic?
Yes, the big question: Why should an adult language learner pick up a children’s story when studying? All of the above probably sounded nice and all, but are these stories really approachable for you?
Youngsters’ stories are a type of communication—and they rely on the power of imagination. Adults, much the same as children, fly while reading a story or listening to one, attracted by the happiness and beauty, the mysteriousness and magic, the enjoyment and culture it holds together. This imaginative element to children’s stories is bound to carry you away and help you get more engrossed in the reading.
That’s because short stories for youngsters and children are a tool for education that differs in each society. You’ll learn about different ideals, morals, values, norms and habits in different communities—in our case, the Arabic-speaking community. Since you’re starting out like a baby when you learn a new language from scratch, these stories will be able to introduce you to all the basic linguistic and culture lessons that Arabic-speaking families strive to impart to their children. It’s invaluable information to get a feel for!
Luckily, these short stories are often loaded with clear, simple and easy language, in order to make them approachable to very young readers. Children’s stories are often written in the most concrete and correct language possible, which makes them not only perfect for children, but also for you during your first learning steps.
5 Easy Arabic Short Stories for the Young and Young at Heart
1. “البلبل الحزين” (The Sad Bluebill) by د.طارق البكري (Tareq Al-Bakri)
The questions around life, time, happiness and true friendship are brought up by an award-winning Lebanese writer in this short story. His works generally charge children with optimism and happiness, and he declares his love for children and their innocence openly through his writing—the story is no exception.
The story tells the bittersweet tale of a bluebill with a beautiful voice for singing who loses hope and his sense of enjoying his time on the planet. How will he be able to regain it?
2. “قصة الشاطر حسن” (Adventures of the Good Boy, Hassan) by أحمد محمود نجيب (Ahmed Mahmoud Najib)
This award-winning Egyptian author is considered one of the first children’s book authors in the Arab world. He even wrote a book about writing for children, explaining some rules and ideas related to creating children’s books in the Arabic language, which has sold 3 million copies.
I came across an article suggesting that elements of the famous “Harry Potter” book series were drawn from the short story I’ve chosen for you here: “قصة الشاطر حسن” (Adventures of the Good Boy, Hassan). You’ll note, if you take to closely reading both works, that they have a very similar essence—though of course the details differ extensively.
Hassan, the protagonist of our tale here, never gives up and holds high notions of honor and chivalry, and this strong sense of character makes for a really entertaining read.
3. “شجرة الحياة” (Tree of Life) by كامل كيلاني (Kamel Kilani)
“Tree of Life” was written by a famous Egyptian children’s author but has been translated into Chinese, Russian, Spanish, French and English.
This short story resolves around dedication and sacrifice for the family. يوسف (Youssef) the protagonist, is a gallant boy who takes on a great adventure with only his bravery to steer him, all in order to save his sick mother.
4. “أمُّ ياسمينَ” (Jasmine’s Mother) by يعقوب الشاروني (Yacoub El Sharouni)
Here we have yet another award-winning author presenting a very interesting and short text which is rooted in his home country’s culture. Many details of Egyptian language and culture come through in this brief tale.
This is a nice story of a hardworking family—a traditional, working-class family in the Arab world—and the terrible choice many families have to make between school and money.
If you’re looking for more by this author, “أجمل الحكايات الشعبية” (The Most Beautiful Folk Tales) and “ألف حكاية وحكاية” (A Thousand Tales) are the most popular of his writings, and like all of his over 400 published books, they’re known to be simple, easy-to-grasp and educational.
5. “القنديل الصغير” (The Little Lamp) by غسان كنفاني (Ghassan Kanafani)
This is a story by the greatest literary name in Palestine.
The short life of غسان كنفاني (Ghassan Kanafani) brought forth numerous short and fascinating texts, which have brought satisfaction to researchers, historians, cultural scholars and children alike. Besides writing about topical Palestinian causes and other issues of interest to adults, this author often wrote for a younger audience and discussed how children are indeed the future.
In many of his short stories, children are the protagonists and the heroes. His short story collection, “أطفال غسان كنفاني” (Children of Ghassan Kanafani) was published in Beirut in 1978 and published in English in 1984 under the title “أطفال فلسطين” (Palestine’s Children).
This story is a handbook for a queen-to-be, discussing how the greatness of a ruler is all about listening to people and opening up to them. As she will soon succeed her father in the throne, this young princess has a troublesome time understanding the will of her father and his determination to ensure her coronation.
So, you now know of some magical—and magically easy—short stories for children that you can explore while studying Arabic.
These children’s stories will come in handy, especially if you’re just beginning to read Arabic. Not only are they fun, informative and educational, but most of the stories in the links I’ve provided have the الحركات (accents) applied to letters to help you pronounce everything correctly.
It’s always a great idea to read these stories out loud and hear them in your own voice.
One great trick to keep yourself studying is to stop reading right before you reach the conclusion. This will keep you thinking and wondering about the story until it’s time to practice reading again the next day, and it will make you more eager to keep your study routine on track.
Keep reading and practicing until you master these stories, and never stop exploring the Arabic literary world—there’s just too much out there!