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The 12th edition of the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature has broken new ground with a record number of 221 submissions from across 22 countries. Organised by the UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY) and sponsored by the Etisalat Group, the submissions comprised entries from 93 publishers, 174 authors, and 158 illustrators.

Following the disqualification of 50 entries for not meeting relevant criteria, the final tally of qualified submissions stood at 171. Of these, 119 submissions were in the Children’s Book categories, 40 in the Young Adult Book of the Year category, and 12 in the Silent Book category.

The AED 1.2 million award, the-first-of-its-kind in the Arab world, attracted entries from Finland, Canada, Georgia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran and Spain for the first time since its launch in 2009. Submissions also poured in from Egypt, UAE, Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Tunisia, Sudan, Morocco and Algeria, in addition to entries from the USA and UK.

Egypt recorded the highest number of submissions with 59 entries, followed by the UAE with 43, while Jordan, KSA, and Lebanon had 22 entries each.

Reflecting on the high turnout of submissions in the current edition, Marwa Al Aqroubi, President of the UAEBBY, pointed out that the notable increase in participation reflects the prestigious status of the award as the leading accolade for children’s literature in the Arab world. She noted that the award’s popularity underscored the significant milestones it touched over the past 12 years, and was also reflective of the keenness of industry stakeholders to push their creative boundaries to develop exceptional content for children and young adults.

“Our focus has always been on harnessing the power of the written word to expand and enrich the knowledge and experiences of the young generations. Through the Etisalat Award, UAEBBY aims to advance the quality of children’s and young adult literature being produced in Arabic, and use that as a stimulus for young readers’ appetite for reading,” she added.

The Etisalat Award is divided into six categories: Children’s Book of the Year valued at AED 300,000, distributed equally between the author, illustrator and publisher; Young Adult Book of the Year worth AED 200,000 distributed equally between the author and publisher; three awards of AED 100,000 each for Best Text, Best Illustration and Best Production; and AED 100,000 for the ‘Silent Book’ category.

Additionally, as part of the award’s ‘Warsha’ programme, which aims to discover and nurture a new generation of writers, illustrators and publishers, AED 300,000 will be dedicated to workshops that harness people’s ability to write and illustrate children’s books.