Back in the day, reading was one of kids’ primary activities. However, with new technologies came innovative ways for them to learn and stay entertained. Screens and mobile phones have become children’s go-to sources of education, play and more, leaving books to play only a minor role in their daily lives. Little ones then began associating reading with school, rather than something they could do for fun.
Two Dubai-based mothers decided that they wouldn’t have it this way. Zeeshahn Fezi and Sharavati Choksi sought ways to bring reading physical books back into the spotlight. They came up with the idea of creating customised books, named after the child reading it, or with their picture on the cover, to make kids want to come back to page-turners they could call their own.
Motivated by the UAE’s announcement of 2016 as the Year of Reading, the two mums created Story For Me, which publishes storybooks for children aged zero to eight years and photo books for children over the age of three. After months of research, they reached out to a fabulously talented bunch of Dubai-based mothers and carers, who came on board as writers, illustrators, and graphic designers. “We strongly believe in the power of reading. As parents, we’ve always tried to create a connection between our kids and books and thought, why not create happy readers all around with personalised and meaningful stories? Every child identifies with the character and literally ‘owns’ the book,” says Fezi.
Story For Me was launched in September 2017, encouraging young readers to relate to books a little more, creating their own memory book through cutting, pasting, and writing. The founders say it has been the most inspirational experience ever for them too. “Last year, we tied up with Dubai Culture’s The Reading Box, an initiative rolled out across Dubai malls and public areas offering reading sessions and activities for children.” To see their eyes light up upon seeing their name or photo in a book has made every bit of our journey as entrepreneurs very rewarding,” Fezi explains.
“We’re two mothers and nothing about putting our kids ahead of everything we do has changed. Our kids love books and, as a part of their routine, they read before bedtime every night. As parents, we’ve found bedtime reading to be a great way to bond with children, talk about their day, or even discuss anything that arises from the book we’ve just read.”
The mums have also found creating memories to be one of children’s favourite activities, supporting their love for visuals. “Along with personalised children’s books, we also offer unique, hardbound DIY photo books, scrap books for kids,” says Choksi. These are locally produced in the UAE and encourage children to create their own memories through drawing, cutting, pasting, and writing. It’s an ideal travel companion and something that keeps kids gainfully occupied during a break.”
Story For Me continues to foster relationships with other organisations to promote a love for reading among children, and the results were even greater than the mums had anticipated.
“At Story For Me, our goal is to work closely with like-minded institutions to create designs that meet partner objectives and offer unique solutions that inspire children to have fun while they learn,” says Fezi.
“Our custom-made special books for a famous UAE nursery have been very well received and it makes us proud to be part of a project that makes a difference.”
So, which books have been the most successful so far? “Our books are themed according to age and each book has a different message. Having said that, Desert Adventure, What Will I be? and The Champion are bestsellers,” the mums tell us.
Whatever gets children to read more makes parents happy, and we hope to see an increased drive to read more. “We wanted to do something that touched, and would hopefully change the lives of many little ones,” says Fezi. “We believe that great thinkers are born from avid readers.”
Dhs200 (storybooks), Dhs100 (photo books). Story for Me books are available online at www.storyforme.me.