Finding books for children or about children in Tigrigna is not easy. Except for a few, most writers focus on adults and write about adult issues.
To be honest, it is not easy to write for children. To successfully write for them, one needs to have specialized knowledge about children: their psychology, their needs, their interests, and their capacities. Though by no means easy, writing about children is a bit easier. One can write about children’s health, their development, their education, and other aspects of their lives with relative ease.
This being the case, it is still difficult to find books about children in Tigrigna. For this reason, Meron Ghebrekidan and Yaqiem Alemseghed’s book, Tiena Hixanat (The Health of Children), came as a good news to me.
From the title of the book, one is prepared to read about the health of children. Just scanning the table of contents, one can see that the authors are guided by a broad definition of health, which is confirmed after reading the book. In the book, the authors move from discussing the family, which influences, and without which child health is impossible, to pregnancy, which lays the foundations of children’s health. Through the first two chapters, they show that families, in general, and mothers, in particular, play an important role in children’s health. By looking after her own health, the authors imply, the mother looks after the health of her children.
The authors don’t seem to believe, as most of us do, that children’s health starts with care after their birth. Rather, they show that children’s health begins much earlier, prior to their birth and while they were still fetuses. Shifting to another issue in Chapter Four, Mr. Yaqiem and Mr. Meron explain another dimension of their concept of health, the social dimension. They show that a healthy child internalizes its society’s values and mores. In yet another elaboration of their concept of child health, they show that healthy children acquire and develop language, communication, and expression skills, which are necessary in their adult lives.
One of the strengths of Tiena Hixanat is its broad understanding of child health and the factors that influence it. For this reason, a number of issues, which at first glance do not seem to have any relationship with child health, are discussed at length. Due to its significant influence on child health, the family is given wide coverage in the book. For a similar reason, contraceptives, pregnancy, and family planning also receive much emphasis. The authors imply that family planning, spacing, and a mother’s health during pregnancy directly affect child health.
HIV/AIDS is also given special emphasis in the book. This is appropriate since the disease poses such significant risks to child and youth health. Millions still fall victim to HIV/AIDS and many nations continue to suffer from its harmful effects.
Another of the book’s strengths is its treatment of issues not traditionally considered as concerns of the medical profession. In a book about child health, it is not common to see issues such as communication, writing and drawing, or visual communication covered. Often, writers focus on what are considered traditional medical topics, such as children’s physical health and they rarely discuss the psychological wellbeing of children. In their book, Mr. Meron and Mr. Yaqiem have regarded communication, art, and mathematical skills as falling under the umbrella of child health. Through discussing a broad range of topics, the authors demonstrate that their understanding of health goes beyond physical wellbeing and instead encompasses children’s psychological wellbeing. They demonstrate their belief that healthy children are physically fit, academically alert and active, and psychologically sound.
Importantly, the authors also focus attention on parents. They remind them of the importance of communication, drawing, reading, and writing for children’s health and show how parents can play a vital role in these areas. Noting the importance of emotional health, they also show parents why they should treat children with respect and why they should not be overly harsh when disciplining them.
While the book features many positive aspects, it also has some shortcomings. For example, the authors could have conducted a little more “digging.” The section on drawing, counting, reading, and writing is very short. In fact, the authors have summarized the information and presented it in only 7 pages. This fails to do justice to such an important topic. It is true the authors have given us basic information about the topic, but as a subject which Eritrean parents traditionally do not have much information about, one expects a little more detail (e.g. useful and practical advice on how to help children at home). The book only describes what children do during certain stages of their development, and not what parents should do to support their kids.
Similarly, the authors do not adequately discuss the safety of children. The information they provide about safety is limited to electric shocks, burns, choking, and hazards that can harm children’s eyes and ears. The authors restrict themselves to a few pages of information about first aid, sources of safety hazards, and a handful of images on how to help ensure the safety of children at home and in vehicles. However, the pictures fail to reflect the wide array of accidents that Eritrean children may be involved in. In fact, they do not even include information (including preventative steps) about one of the chief sources of accidents and deaths among children – drowning.
Finally, reading the book, one notices that, in several instances, the book dwells on descriptions of issues or challenges, yet fails to offer recommendations about what could be done to address those challenges or issues. For instance, what can parents actually do to speed up language acquisition? What precautions should parents take to ensure their child’s health as they grow? Moreover, what can parents do to support their children’s learning at home? If the authors had thought about these issues, the book would have become far more complete and comprehensive.
Despite these shortcomings, the book is very well done and it will be useful to parents and others interested in learning more about child health. Mr. Yaqiem Alemseged and Mr. Meron Ghebrekidan should be congratulated for a work well done.