"Kids of our generation are a lot smarter than we are," Mohammed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, tells me. "They have a lot more opportunities than we had. And we want that for them. We are very lucky here in Abu Dhabi, if you look at the spectrum of activities for any child: art at Manarat al Saadiyat, doing arts and craft at the Louvre Abu Dhabi children's museum, our public parks and public beaches in Al Bahar."
Next March will see a new addition to this list.
“We are extremely excited to be creating a new and vibrant space in Abu Dhabi that will impact the lives of children and their families. The Abu Dhabi Children’s Library will provide creative opportunities for digital engagement and emphasise the importance of the library as a rich and welcoming space for children within the local community. It will also allow us to support the development of Arabic literacy and creative programmes that will enrich and enhance learning outside the classroom. We hope to inspire a new generation of readers, starting them on a life-long journey of discovery,” said Al Mubarak.
After a long wait, the longest-standing building in the UAE, the Qasr al Hosn, will re-open just behind the Corniche. The refurbished fort will be accompanied by a museum and the Cultural Foundation, which will house, the DCT has just announced, the new Abu Dhabi Children’s Library.
“We’re designing it as a child would design his or her library,” Al Mubarak, a father to young children himself, says. “They are trying to really push the envelope and immerse the child in the world of knowledge and books by using the attributes of a child.”
The three storeys of the library will be aimed at three different age groups, and each will be themed in order to bring the books alive. “You get the opportunity to choose the environment for the book,” explains Al Mubarak. “The children can sit in a place where they are surrounded by plush camels and sand dunes, where they imagine they are sitting in the deserts of the UAE. Or they can be on top of a dinosaur.”
Cosy nooks will provide spots for children to read, while low open stacks, accessible for little people, will allow them to choose stories by themselves. The range of material will include fiction, graphic novels, audio-books and autobiographies. Different programmes will explore art, film, and music, and a children’s museum will be installed.
“Just as you have Abu Dhabi Art, the kids will have the ability to display their art on a weekly to monthly basis, where people like parents and adults can see the quality of art being done by the kids living here in the UAE,” Al Mubarak says.
I'm not sure he's seen the calibre of work on my fridge, but as an unbiased mother of two – and The National's professional art critic – I'm pretty sure I have some artist-candidates for the opening exhibition.