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Singaporean mums win US award for English book series that teaches kids Arabic

When sisters Hafeezah Alsagoff and Hanan Alsagoff couldn't find any fun English books to help their kids learn the Arabic alphabet, they took matters into their own hands.

Singaporean mums win US award for English book series that teaches kids Arabic

Hafeezah Alsagoff and Hanan Alsagoff, the authors of the Arabic Alphabet of Huruf Island series. (Photos: Homely Hammock)

When Hafeezah Alsagoff and Hanan Alsagoff couldn't find fun and interactive books about the Arabic language written in English for their kids, they published their own series – and won an award for it.

The Arabic Alphabet Of Huruf Island series, which comprises seven books, was first released in 2017 and recently won the Best Book Series 2021 award from US publishing company Daybreak Press.

The award was presented virtually as part of the company's Book Festival held from Oct 22 to 24.

It features characters "that children of all religions and backgrounds can relate to", "helping to lower barriers between cultures and encourage unity in our society", according to a press release.

Hafeezah, a 39-year-old mother of two, said the duo are "very grateful" for the award.

A card game based on The Arabic Alphabet of Huruf Island book series. (Photo: Homely Hammock)

Though Singaporean, the sisters said they were exposed to "different forms of education" in their early years, having attended Australian, American and British international schools in different parts of the world. 

Hafeezah later graduated from the National University of Singapore, where she majored in Sociology and Theatre Studies, while Hanan has a Master of Architecture from the same university. Both were secondary school teachers before they founded their own publishing company, Homely Hammock, in 2014.

"Through these experiences, we learned to value creativity and create learning experiences that don't feel like learning. For example, creating memorable characters to introduce the Arabic letters through stories and card games that allow children to learn through play," said Hanan, 37, who has four children.

Some home activities parents have come up with based on the Arabic Alphabet of Huruf Island series. (Photos: Instagram/learnwithummi, Instagram/fjain)

The series has proved popular with readers across the world, with parents creating home schooling activities based on the books, leading to the pair releasing spin-offs that include an interactive finger trace book and card game. 

Later this year, the sisters expect to release a second print of the finger trace book, along with a new title for the original series. Expanding Homely Hammock to include more authors and penetrate more markets, creating animation videos and selling foreign rights to their titles are also in the pipeline.

The Arabic Alphabet of Huruf Island series is available in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

Those in Singapore can purchase the books at retailers like Darul Arqam, Kinokuniya and Wardah Books or via the Homely Hammock website.

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Source: CNA/hs