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AlDhabi AlMheiri at the SIBF: "I would like to distribute books to refugee children"

AlDhabi AlMheiri is more than a child, she is an editor and writer; her first work: "I had an idea", her dream: to distribute books among refugees; she tells Atalayar at the Sharjah International Book Fair
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PHOTO/ATALAYAR/ANTONIA CORTÉS  -   AlDhabi AlMheiri

She is small, but her heart is big and her mind is privileged. Before she was eight years old, she had already published her first book, "I Had an Idea", in two languages, making her the youngest bilingual author in the world to be entered in the Guinness World Record Awards. But this book comes on the heels of her exciting adventure as an entrepreneur, as, with the necessary support of her parents, she founded her own publishing house: Rainbow Chimney. Two very important words in the life of this little girl, which show her passion for the colours of the rainbow and her admiration for the wonderful Mary Poppins musical and the song "Chim Chimney". The beginning of it all is clear: her love of books.

She tells us about it in the dining room of the Sharjah hotel where she is staying because she is taking part in the International Book Fair. She is standing in front of the shelf where the desserts are displayed, too many and too rich to make up her mind the first time. She hesitates, and we take advantage of those seconds to approach her. She smiles, albeit shyly. A little later, her ease and confidence during the interview shows us the maturity of this girl.

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PHOTO - AlDhabi  AlMheiri

She is accompanied by her parents. Her mother, Mouza AlDarmaki, gives us permission to photograph her, to talk to her.  AlDhabi AlMheiri is clear about what she does and what she wants. She dreamt and achieved her dream. She knows that desires are achieved, that is why she fights, to continue to make her thoughts and dreams come true, such as being able to bring books to refugee children, "because I know that it is difficult for them to go to school". A spirit of solidarity that she has already demonstrated with children who have autism, vision or hearing problems, Down's syndrome... for her they are very important, which is why her publishing house prepares boxes of books and special games. "I want them to develop too, I want them to enjoy reading books, to express themselves and enjoy themselves like me. There are books written in Braille that they can touch to find out what they say".

Where did your idea come from? Why this book? As if taking a running start, she tells us that "I had an idea" reflects how she started her project as a publisher, the need she had for children between 4 and 10 years old to start writing, in Arabic, in English. That's why she also has an initiative called "Children's books for children". She wants children to publish, to take out and write their feelings, what they have inside. "To discover children's talents at an early stage, so that there will be a new generation of children writers," she says, and she is sure she will succeed.

She also tells us that it was not she who thought of publishing, but, being the youngest publisher in the UAE, she was the president of the International Publishers Association, during a conference at last year's fair, who encouraged her to write. "So I wrote my book: I had an idea".

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PHOTO/ATALAYAR/ANTONIA CORTÉS - AlDhabi  AlMheiri

At just three years old, this writer was already reading; her mother undoubtedly had a lot to do with it, because from a very young age, before bedtime and every night, reading became another companion. She says she would stare at the drawings or make noises as if imitating the characters. And then, she looks at us and smiles, as if those first memories of reading were coming back to her, as if she were already grown up.

She has become a very popular and important character. And what do your schoolmates think, we ask her. She answers that they usually ask her how she did it and why, and she always tells them the same thing: to encourage children to read and write books, to have fun. Fun, yes, because for her reading is fun.

In such a technological world, in which the youngest children only dream of their mobiles, video games and the digital world, we are struck by AlDhabi AlMheiri's restlessness and her determination to spread her love of reading, a reading that is not limited to children's stories, "I like to read about mathematics, robotics, the stars, space and our environment". She likes everything, which is why she doesn't hesitate when it comes to choosing between the humanities and the sciences: "Both inspire me," says the child writer, who still has a long way to go before she can decide what her professional future will be.

And in the face of this world of screens, which she does not deny, although she likes to be with her family, she tells us that she has 3D and 4D books in her publishing house, as well as others that talk about virtual reality. The important thing is that they try to give each child what they like, to personalise these little boxes.

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PHOTO/ATALAYAR/ANTONIA CORTÉS - AlDhabi  AlMheiri

Y frente a este mundo de pantallas, del que ella no reniega, aunque le gusta estar con la familia, nos dice tener en su editorial libros 3D y 4D y otros que hablan de la realidad virtual. Lo importante es que intentan dar a cada niño lo que le gusta, personalizar esas cajitas.

La aventura de AlDhabi AlMheiri acaba de empezar, aunque ya ha recibido grandes elogios y alegrías. El camino es largo, y ganas y fuerza no le falta. En su pensamiento está dar a conocer su proyecto en otras ferias, en otros países, estar en contacto con otra gente para que también consigan sus sueños. Y entre esos proyectos de futuro inmediato, la Feria del Libro Infantil de Bolonia (Italia), una de las más importantes del sector.
Para terminar, nos interesa saber si quiere viajar, qué países le gustaría conocer. Piensa un poco antes de contestar. Su elección es Londres. ¿Y España?, insistimos. Su respuesta es una sonrisa afirmativa.