When Dawn Leslie, arrived in Saudi Arabia nearly eight years ago to work at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh, little could she have imagined that her new home would provide such inspiration for her to write a series of books for children to help those growing up in the Kingdom to be more aware of their health.
Speaking to Arabia Now from Riyadh, Dawn said, “Very soon after my arrival I recognized a profound need for children’s educational health content. Prior to moving to Saudi Arabia, I had published two book series in Canada; totaling 150,000 books. I was, and still am deeply committed to the idea of a health curriculum in schools and I hoped to duplicate my Canadian model here. I now have a total of 30 books completed, which comprise a comprehensive health library and all have been translated into Arabic.”
That’s good news for thousands of children who are waiting for a new story to read. While working at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, Miss Leslie soon became aware of the rise of type II diabetes and other obesity-related issues in children. Saudi Arabia also tops many lists for traffic fatalities, and smoking-related illness is a huge concern.
So when she wasn’t working on the wards, or dealing with various pediatric departments, Miss Leslie put her pen to paper, and started writing. During her interview with Arabia Now, Miss Leslie explained, “I’m a huge proponent of the idea that children can be taught almost anything provided the information is delivered in an age-appropriate language, and my books are based on that concept. For each topic, I take accurate medical information and wrap the message in an entertaining story about a character that is experiencing the condition. I dub this style as ‘info-fiction’ and find it to be a very effective way of teaching. Included in each book is a section for adults called ‘Stuff for Grown-Ups;’ a simple guide to signs, symptoms and treatment options which provides another learning dimension for families. Both Saudi children and their parents can benefit from this form of education.”
Speaking to Arabia Now about her Arabic book launch of 6,000 books to the pediatric patients of King Faisal Specialist Hospital on November 14th, World Diabetes Day, Dawn Leslie told Arabia Now, “It will be such an exciting moment and the happy result of a few years of dedicated energy. I’ve been in the Kingdom since 2010 and working on this project specifically for the past four years, so you can imagine how gratifying it will be to finally see my books in the hands of Saudi children. King Faisal Hospital is an extremely proactive organization and has fully embraced the notion of preventive health education for children, so they have been wonderful to partner with in distributing the books to their patients.”
With titles such as “Run for your Life,” Dawn says she has learned a lot from children in Saudi Arabia, “Who are like many other kids these days. They are curious, smart and very tech-savvy. Best of all, they are perfectly capable of making good decisions regarding their diet, activity and safety choices. One of the most meaningful ways to make a difference in the incidence of disease is by educating children and empowering them to be good stewards of their own health.”
Two key pillars of Saudi Vision 2030, are philanthropy and entrepreneurship. Miss Leslie’s children’s books certainly fit into those areas. During her interview with Arabia Now, Miss Leslie explained why. “I’ve loved spending these years in Saudi Arabia and feel very closely connected to both the land and the people. This is a wonderful and fascinating time to be in this region of the world and I feel blessed to not only be witnessing these impactful changes, but actually be playing a small part in helping to improve lives through health and education.”