Web interactive children’s books by Shehara Halaldeen
In this modern era of the internet, sometimes books seem to be a little boring. But Sri Lankan author Shehara Kanaka Halaldeen, who is a teacher and writer, has found a great solution to this, making books more fun and interactive. She may be one of the first to use QR (Quick Response)-coded links in her books where you can get instant access to a wealth of online educational resources, including videos and images, using a smartphone. Shehara is a children’s author with more than 15 years of experience in the publishing industry. She is the author of the famous children’s activity book series “My First”. Her books are also being exported to the Gulf region and the Maldives. Let’s see why her books are so special for kids.
Tell our Little Stars readers how you started your journey.
My home town is Trincomalee. In 1984, I moved to Colombo following my father’s demise. My first school was St. Mary’s Convent, Trincomalee. After coming to Colombo, I joined Muslim Ladies College, Bambalapitiya. During my school days, I was a very active Interactor, a prefect, and a games captain too. I did a lot of extracurricular activities. I was in charge of the school library council where I was responsible for arranging the bookshelves and so I ended up spending a lot of time around books. After school, I completed my preschool, montessori, and primary school Diploma in Child Psychology and Child Development. At a very young age, I started working as a part-time teacher for the National Institute of Education in Maharagama. Then, I joined an international school in 1996.
Why did you start writing activity books for children?
When I completed my 10th year teaching, I was concentrating very much on lesson planning and teacher assignments. It was my colleagues who motivated me to write a book as we observed that we were running short of good books, especially books on phonics. There was a time when it was difficult to get a good book because they were always out of stock; most of them are imported from foreign countries and it was difficult to continue classroom work without the books. This is one of the reasons why I did my first book on phonics. Since then, I have published many books for different age groups which are helpful in learning English.
In some of your activity books there are QR codes along with the activities. What are they for?
If you can remember, earlier all these activity books used to have CDs attached to the back cover with computer animations. But now, technology is much more advanced and CDs are outdated, so I have introduced QR codes which link to activity-related videos.
What inspired you to become a writer and publish books for children?
I never had a solid nursery education, mainly because my father was working for the Royal Ceylon Air Force. After he got an early retirement, he dedicated most of his time to the youngest in the family – me. He didn’t want me to waste time and wanted me to start reading at an early age. When I was around five, he was already giving me English newspaper front pages to read aloud. At mealtimes, I was supposed to spell the name of the food I wanted. I was annoyed at that time, but looking back, I can say that could be the reason I became interested in writing books for children that help them learn.
What are your future plans?
I love to share my experiences and knowledge not only with children but with teachers and parents too. That is why I have given instructions to them in all of my books. I’m proud to say that I have never come across any other books like these. Anybody who likes to teach primary grades can use these books. I have planned three more books for next year, including a Sinhala activity book and an environmental studies book.
Some adults discourage children using the internet. What are your thoughts on this?
There are positive and negative things in life in general. When it comes to the internet, I have experienced that many kids today can handle smartphones really well. Children will not benefit if they only use the internet to watch cartoons, so they have to use it for educational purposes as well. They have to always be guided by their parents when they use smartphones or the internet. I think that through my books I have found a way to make the internet more useful and interactive for children. Anywhere they go, they can use the book to find activity-related videos on YouTube. And that will help them in using the internet more carefully.
Where is your book available?
It is available in all the leading bookshops in Sri Lanka. If someone needs to buy my books, they can even directly contact us on 0773 302 800.