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AUA Students Create Authentic Children’s Books in English

YEREVAN, Armenia – The American University of Armenia (AUA) students enrolled in the Children’s Literature course of the English and Communications (EC) program have created authentic children’s books with original text and illustrations.

“In fact, it may be more difficult to write for children than adults. Based on deep analysis of the nature, ingredients, themes and social/psychological implications of literature intended for children, the students were charged with a final project of authoring and illustrating an original work, which reflects the essential constructs of the class,” explained course instructor Mimi Zarookian, adjunct lecturer at AUA’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS).

The students passed through several stages to complete the project. First they submitted proposals, then wrote and illustrated their books, and finally presented them using PowerPoint. At the end, the students were asked to write reflections on the process and final outcomes.

While composing the books, the students took into consideration several factors, such as using age-appropriate vocabulary and themes that would raise young readers’ interest, addressing and challenging stereotypes, and finally illustrating the book in a manner that would be engaging for a young readership. “Developing plots and characters that engage children with real-life topics that withstand the test of time needed to be an integral component of the book,” noted Zarookian.

The main themes of the children’s books include but are not limited to love, friendship, nature, kindness, courage, sports, death, and freedom. Although most of the books were written in prose, The Gift by Ani Jilavyan was written in verse consisting of 74 rhyming quatrains. The students used not only male and female main characters, but also animals. In the book Bun-Bun’s Nap, Tatevik Kyurkchyan told the story of a bunny searching for a comfortable place to sleep that she could ultimately consider home. Her story reflected her personal experience. The essence of the characters dealt with emotions assigned to non-traditional gender roles.

Each of the books is unique in its own way as the students have used different shapes, formats, and colors. One of the books, Your Roots by Meri Lachinyan, is designed with interactive pages that have enveloped letters on them. The pages are decorated with traditional Armenian patterns and designs while the cover showcases a section of an Armenian carpet. It is created for Armenian children both locally and from the Diaspora to learn about their history.

“Despite its educational purpose, it does not read like a school book. It includes Polaroid-style photos of prominent Armenian historical figures and letters from them to the reader. It creates a secret connection between the child and the characters,” said Lachinyan.

Zarookian confessed that the results of the course project far exceeded her expectations: “While I was certain that the students would complete the assignment, never did I imagine that they would invest so much of themselves, as well as, time and effort into the production of their books. What, I think, the students came to realize is how difficult it is, in actuality, to write a book at a level that children will connect with and enjoy.”

“Undoubtedly, the most inspiring breath of the project was the awakening of interest and latent talent in this field. I am delighted that, now, some students are excitedly considering a career path in a field which invisibly impacts the fabric of our children’s lives,” Zarookian added.

The children’s books are currently displayed at the entrance of the AGBU Papazian Library.

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, and affiliated with the University of California. AUA provides a global education in Armenia and the region, offering high-quality graduate and undergraduate studies, encouraging civic engagement, and promoting public service and democratic values.

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