Zayoodi’s Adventures: Children’s books that tackle the UAE culture
Dr. Seuss said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” And he’s right: children’s books can be an educational tool for the young ones to explore different cultures and heritages. This is what Sarah Sillis is trying to do with her series, Zayoodi’s Adventures. With the children’s books series she’s created, she shares her passion for reading and tries to instill the love of books and reading in her children.
Growing up as a bookworm
Sarah is originally from Belgium, home to famous authors like Julio Cortázar, as well as children’s books and comic books like Tintin, The Smurfs and Asterix. As a child, Sarah used to love books and she would read anything that she could lay her hands on. She went to the library on a weekly basis and maxed out the number of books that she could check out. After reading each book, her favorite thing to do was to jot down her opinions about it and write a short review in her journal. As a teenager, books were her form of “escape;” she would turn to them whenever she needed some quiet and peaceful time for herself.
Growing up in Belgium, I’ve always been inspired by good authors and some wonderful children’s books. So, when I became a mother myself, I wanted to transfer the love of books to my children.
She studied tourism and hospitality and as a part of her studies she studied languages, she speaks Dutch, French, German, English and basic Arabic. She had always been fond of learning about different cultures and other languages. Sarah combined her love of books with her admiration of culture and heritage. She started her own side hustle, which she prefers calling her ‘passion,’ a series of children’s books titled Zayoodi’s Adventures.
From full-time mother to author of children’s books
Sarah moved to the United Arab Emirates eighteen years ago to learn Arabic. She then fell in love, got married and had three children. She wanted to pass her love of reading down to her children, so she read them to sleep every night. She explains, “My children’s bedtime routine is me reading in English or Flemish and my husband reading in Arabic. I wanted to read them something specifically about their culture, but I couldn’t find much in English.” She wanted her children to know more about their heritage, culture, national attire and similar topics. That’s why she decided to do something about it: she combined her love for books, heritage and culture and started her very own book series.
Her first book came out in 2017, under the title “Zayoodi Goes to the Parade.” The book is about the UAE’s National Day, discussing the national flag, national attire and what people do on that day. Her second book came out this year with the title “Zayoodi Goes to the Desert.”
In addition to writing and publishing a series of books, Sarah also recently launched her first card game. It’s a dominoes game of matching cards that helps with developing children’s problem solving and memory skills.
You can find the books through two online stores, different bookstores across the UAE, and in a lot of school libraries. Sarah also does book readings in schools in the UAE and gets positive feedback about her book from both the children and teachers.
Building a digital identity for Zayoodi’s Adventures
Sarah considers her abilities to be “okay” when it comes to technology. She explains, “I am a mother of three children, I work a full-time job and my life gets pretty busy. I don’t have a lot of time to spend on my laptop, so anything that I can do through my phone works perfectly for me.”
When she was looking for a tool to build Zayoodi Adventures’ website, she didn’t have an enormous budget or the technical skills to build a website from scratch. She says:
When I was looking for options to build my website, I was looking for something simple and not very expensive. That’s why I decided to use GoDaddy Websites + Marketing tool to build my website.
She found that GoDaddy’s tools are very straightforward, user-friendly and affordable. Even before then she’d been a GoDaddy customer, using domain names from GoDaddy for almost ten years now for her previous side hustles. At the same time, she uses Professional Email for Zayoodi to communicate with her customers and for business related inquiries.
Sarah believes that having a website for small businesses is very important.
Having a website is like having an online business card. These days when you say your company’s name, the first thing that people will do is Google it. If nothing comes up, what would they think?
She recommends GoDaddy’s Website Builder for small businesses because she believes that you can build professional websites easily without technical knowledge. Although her website is simple and basic for now, she plans on adding more pages and sections with educational resources for teachers.
Encourage your children to read
With her job and taking care of her family, Sarah has a very busy schedule, but she still makes sure that her children read every day: “I encourage my children to read on a daily basis; I want to instill the love of reading in them because of my own love of books. We have books all over the house, and we have a bedtime routine where we always read a story before they go to sleep.” Even though her youngest child can’t read yet, she gives him books to hold to get the feel of them and skim through the pictures. She says, “This way he can also grow up loving books.”
Sarah also has some tips for mothers who struggle to get their children to read. She explains that getting your children to love books and read constantly comes with time and practice: “You need to choose stories that your children would love and the ones that spark their interest so they will want to read them themselves.” She also advises parents to take their children to bookstores as a place not only to read but also to hangout. She always takes her children to a bookstore called Early Starters Warehouse in Mussafah. She says that the place is full of children’s books and the owner made it a cozy place for children and parents to go, sit and read. Her final advice for mothers is not to give up and continue reading.
If you were intrigued by Sarah’s story, you can check more stories of inspiring women who started their own side hustles in the region on our blog.