SHARJAH // Parents of students at a private school have complained about violent and unpleasant images in books made available to children as young as five.
Several titles from the Horrible Science series of children’s books were exhibited during a book fair at the Sharjah school recently. The award winning series, penned by British author Nick Arnold, aims to educate children and get them interested in science by using humour and sometimes gory details and drawings.
Tania, who has a 10-year-old and a six-year-old at the school, said she was shocked at the images of guts, bloody body parts and chopped off hands and fingers.
“I spoke to the supervisor and they promised the books will be taken off shelves but for four days that did not happen,” said the 30-year-old from Ukraine.
“When I saw the amount of books that contained repulsive images and vampires I went to the administration and asked to meet the principal, but I wasn’t allowed.
Then I met the supervisor,” she said. “It wasn’t two or three books, actually the majority of books were of this type and they were placed on the front of the shelves to attract children. My son came holding one and insisting that he wanted to buy it, but I refused.”
The school’s principal said that the books were approved by the Ministry of Education and before the fair was held teachers had examined the content of all the books and found them to be suitable.
“The parents have the right to buy what they want, and if they don’t like anything I have an open door policy and they can always come to me straight,” said the principal.
Hessah Al Khajaj, the head of private education at the Sharjah Educational Zone, said the books could be confiscated if they were found to be in breach of rules surrounding fairs and what could be displayed.
“Any private school is obliged to obtain the approval of the zone when holding any event such as a book fair,” said Ms Al Khajaj, adding that parents who noticed any offence were encouraged to file complaints.
However, not all the parents felt the Horrible Science books were a bad thing and said they allowed their children to read the educational series.
Sneh Sharma, a mother of two children aged 7 and 8, said her kids were hooked on the books.
“We have bought and read many of the books,” said Mrs Sharma.
“My son has been reading since he was six. Both my children really enjoy them as it teaches stuff in a fun way. Nick Arnold writes really well. It’s a cartoon after all and there are so many worse things that kids can get exposed to. If it is a school exhibition, it’s for all kinds of kids.”
Nick Arnold was a guest at the Emirates Literature Festival in Dubai last year, while Tony De Saulles, the series’ UK-based illustrator attended the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival that ended at the weekend. Four million copies of the Horrible Science books have been sold in the UK and the books are available in 24 countries.