In Uncategorized on July 9, 2014 at 6:22 pm

my grandfather's donkey

“My Grandfather’s Donkey” (حمارة جدي) is one of my favorite books to read aloud when reading with kids, and the illustrations are so engaging that we just had to contact the artist behind them for a quick chat! Nadine Sidani, a Lebanese illustrator born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, has won several awards for her work. In 2009, she won the Etisalat Award for her illustration of the book “I Love” (أنا احب) from Dar Al Hadaek. She’s also won awards for “Come Play with Me,” “My Friend,” and “What did you Decide, Malek?”

Nadine is a graduate of the Lebanese American University (LAU), and she’s illustrated over 30 children’s books.  Check out the interview below:

How did you get started as an illustrator?

Illustration has always been my passion. After graduating from the Lebanese American University, a friend introduced me to a publishing house in Lebanon where I started with collage illustrations that got me noticed. Several publishing houses contacted me because of the style of my work, and that’s how it began.

How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started out?

I discovered my own style of illustration through my paintings, at first. Illustration was something I always loved, ever since I was a child.  Creating a unique style was something that came naturally; it was something that came from the heart. My style has improved and developed throughout the years, but it still has the same authenticity. 

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Do you have a particular routine that you follow when you illustrate?

Of course.  When I’m illustrating books I always start by reading the story and trying to live and visualize it with all my senses… colors, smells, sounds, places, characters, countries and traditions. The next step is creating those characters and their surroundings. I then send them to the client in order to make sure that this is what they’re looking for before we finalize the book.

Loyal Dogmy star

What was your favorite book growing up?

“Le Petit Prince” was my favorite book as it triggers the imagination through deep and simple drawings that include lots of metaphors and lessons. I encourage parents to buy the book for their kids. It’s a classic that will forever capture the readers’ heart.

What projects are you working on at present?

I’m working on many children books right now in Lebanon and the Middle East. I’m also very excited as I’m working on new ideas with established as well as new publishing houses.



In Uncategorized on April 2, 2014 at 10:30 am
Ten months ago, ReadingStart launched a fundraising campaign on, and a lot has happened since that we’d love to update you on!
Finding the perfect partner clinics was a struggle at first, but we did manage to find two clinics that were exactly what the doctor ordered :)
- Tahadi Clinic in Hay Al Gharb, Beirut 
Tahadi Clinic ( caters to one of Lebanon’s most marginalized populations. Located in the suburbs of Beirut, it serves families living beneath the poverty threshold, on under 200 USD/ month. It provides primary health services, healthcare assistance for urgent surgeries, pre-natal and neo-natal care, counselling and most recently, a ReadingStart program.
When a parent of a child under the age of three comes in for a vaccine visit, the nurse at Tahadi will not only administer the shots, but she will also take a minute to discuss the importance of literacy activities at such a young age. She then gives the parents, free of charge, a package containing two board books and a brochure about reading.
Alongside the intervention of nurses, we also run regular workshops with young mothers on how to use the books they receive to maximum effect. You’ll find some pictures of our work below.
Howard Karagheusian Commemorative Corporation in Burj Hamoud, Beirut 
This April, our second partner clinic, HKCC (, will begin running a ReadingStart program. HKCC provides a segment of Lebanon’s Armenian population, and most recently Syrian refugee population, with primary care services and counselling. Along the same model as Tahadi, we’ve enlisted nurses to advocate for reading in the early childhood years. We will also run workshops with new mothers to discuss how reading aloud can be made more interactive.
HKCC will also be one of the first locations to run our “Let’s Read” ad campaign. You can check out the poster below.
Due to the very very generous support of Asala Publishers, we were able to literally make every dollar count. Our magic formula? Every dollar donated = a book given! We will continue to work on making sure that our book packs are cost effective in order to ensure we reach the maximum number of children and families.
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By the end of 2014, we will have reached a total of 1000 families, distributed a total of 2000 children’s books, ran a series of periodic workshops on reading aloud, helped establish several mobile in-clinic libraries and ran an ad campaign at schools and clinics to encourage reading as a family. We will also have distributed over 2000 brochures on the importance of reading in the early years and advocated for the Arab publishing industry through our blog and Facebook page.
We couldn’t have done any of this without the generous support of our funders, partners and fans, and for this we thank you from the bottom of our hearts! 

“SPIDER’S SURPRISE” “مفاجأة العنكبوت”

In Uncategorized on March 30, 2014 at 7:42 pm

“Spider’s Surprise” was born out of a dire need to promote the use of Arabic among young children at a private pre-school in Amman, Jordan. Author Reem Abu-Ragheb noticed that the kids at her pre-school were speaking to each other in English, and so she decided to promote the use of Arabic through a week of activities that encouraged the kids to use the language for daily communication. The prize? A copy of a book designed specially to entertain while teaching a little something about numeracy and friendship. “Spider’s Surprise” is a delightful read, with easy to remember rhyme and a simple heartwarming story. And, as an added bonus, it’s available in both Arabic and English!





The book is available online at Maktabetcom,  Mintaad online lending library as well as at Book’ n’ Brush Preschool in Amman, Jordan.


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