The Asia Foundation with support from Smart Axiata has launched BookLab – a children’s book creation event to produce 10 children’s storybooks, laying out different situations and problems for young readers to learn and explore.

The event, themed "How do I feel?” is about social and emotional learning (SEL), with the purpose of helping children recognise and manage their emotions, especially during the unprecedented Covid-19 crisis.

According to the press release on January 17, the storybooks will help children to understand their emotions and responses.

The books will present situations and problems for young readers to learn and explore, and make responsible and caring decisions in different situations. Understanding emotions and responding to different situations is at the heart of human development and their learning.

The Asia Foundation country representative, Meloney Lindberg, said that when it comes to social and emotional learning, there are five broad, interrelated areas of competence: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.

“Each of the 10 children’s storybooks for this BookLab addresses these competencies,” she said.

She gave an example of one of the 10 stories that would be created – “I’m Scared” – a story depicting Dara, a young boy who is afraid to go to school by himself for the first time.

Dara normally goes to school with his sister every day. One day his sister falls sick and Dara is not sure if he can go alone.

In his mind, Dara thinks: “My sister is not going to school with me. What if I go alone and other kids will make fun of me? What if I go alone and other kids try to take my money or my snack? ... But I want to learn … but…”.

This will help children unpack their emotions and help them develop strategies to build their confidence”, Meloney explained.

According to her, to better demonstrate SEL to young readers and promote creativity and imagination, the BookLab writers are using new characters, techniques and writing styles to engage the readers.

She said that in the planning stage of BookLab, The Asia Foundation’s “Let’s Read Initiative” recruited 10 writers and trained them on children’s storybook writing through a series of capacity development workshops, including skills such as narrative design and descriptive writing.

The writers have been supported and mentored along the way by experienced local editors with solid local expertise.

Smart Axiata head of corporate affairs Tivea Koam said the telecoms company believe that through reading, children will be able to tap into their full potential.

“Through the journeys of the characters in the books, children will discover new ways to navigate social interactions and become better at processing negative emotional states,” he said.