Although she doesn’t speak Arabic as well as Bernadette would like, Habiba is always trying to learn more!
One of the things Habiba does to help her learn is to read story books in Arabic. There are many great children’s books available in Egypt, but Habiba finds them very hard to read. You see, all of these books are written in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), and Habiba is trying to learn Egyptian and Bedouin Arabic. There are many words used in MSA that are not used in these spoken dialects of Arabic, so while she may be able to decode (sound out) the words in the books, she has little idea what the words mean.
Because there is no standard written form for Egyptian or other Arabic dialects, there are no books for children written in these languages.
So Nadim, her Arabic tutor, suggested that Habiba write her own books! He knew it would be a fun way for Habiba to learn more about Egyptian Arabic. All Habiba had to do was use the Arabic alphabet to write the sounds of the Egyptian words. She had a lot of fun writing and illustrating her first little story and Nadim was right - she learned a lot - vocabulary, grammar, and spelling! Nadim now uses the book with many of his students and they have asked for more! Habiba is now working on writing her third book and has ideas for many more. She enjoys writing about things that she likes or knows a lot about, so you’ll probably see many titles about the nature, culture, and places of Egypt and south Sinai.