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  • Writer's pictureLarbi Arbaoui

MLP & the Enduring Power of Story

Larbi tells us about his love of storytelling and how we're helping the tradition thrive in Morocco through the MLP Writing Competition.

by Larbi Arbaoui

Telling stories is an amazing art that pleases both the teller and the listener, the writer and the reader. When I was a little kid, I heard stories from my grandmother, mom, and my friends. It was a habit among elders and children of my age to collect firewood before sunset, build a fire in a corner of the entrance of our village, and sit cozily around it, telling stories in turns. The rule was: if you can’t feed our imagination with an entertaining story, you have to go collect wood to feed the fire.

During those cold winter nights, I heard thousands of stories of different types, ranging from quests and overcoming monsters to comedies and tragedies. Today, I recall those nights with nostalgic feelings and feel displeased by the huge number of stories that have gone unwritten.

Now that I have become a teacher, I am convinced in the power of stories as an effective teaching tool. I always do my best to help my students read stories that suit their reading levels. I came to know Mrs Barb Mackraz, who set up Morocco Library Project (MLP) to equip Moroccan schools in rural areas with books, in a noble attempt from her to encourage reading among students. I loved the voluntary and remarkable work she is doing in order to help our students. So, I decided to help in a way to keep the project sustainable and more productive. Therefore, I offered to organize a short story competition for student-members of MLP clubs.

The 2020 prizewinners Hiba, Ikram, and Fadoua

The first MLP short story contest was very successful and received with much appreciation from participating schools all over Morocco. The three winners and the readers each received an Amazon Paperwhite Kindle, and more gifts in the form of books and certificates.

  • Hiba Bakertit, an excellent student who loves writing, from Med V High School in Taroudant placed first for her story “Aiden." Her story is a compassionate story told from the perspective of a boy with autism.

  • Ikram Lekdaoui, a brilliant student from Med V High School in Goulmima, came in second for her tale “The Humanitarian King." Her timely story tells about two mythical lands in an age of pandemic.

  • Fadoua Elaik, the youngest among the winners, from Excellence High School in Guelmim, came in third with her entertaining story "Siren’s Curse,” which is a modern retelling of the Greek myth of the sirens, amid the push and pull of good and evil.

Mrs Mackraz is determined to keep supporting these emerging voices to write stories and reach out to worldwide audience. Thanks to the help of students’ teachers, readers, and the national judge of the contest, we managed to collect wonderful stories that will be published in an anthology and will be sent to participants and schools that host MLP libraries.

Hiba's character Aiden, drawn by Hajar Azizi

The stories feature expressive images and sketches drawn by Hajar Azizi, a student artist from Marrakech.

The amazing stories that students wrote gave us the energy to organize a second competition with open participation to all secondary schools all over Morocco. This month, January 2021, we will launch the call for participation for the second contest, and students from secondary schools are welcome to share their own creative writing or local tales they’ve collected from elders.

We hope to continue this program year after year, and this will be possible only with the active participation of teachers to help and encourage their students to write and individuals who love what we do, including Judy Kramer, who provided funds for the Kindles for students, and Moon Travel Guides, an imprint of Hachette Books, who cosponsored our project by helping Morocco Library Project pay for the books for the libraries and participants as gifts.

Now that we're about to launch the second contest, we welcome partnerships to make it more successful.


About the Author

Larbi Arbaoui is a long-time member of Morocco Library Project and the organizer of the Writing Competition. He has been teaching English since 2006 and has been awarded the British Council's International School Award.

Larbi is a graduate of Ibn Zohr University in Agadir in linguistics and previously taught Darija to Peace Corps volunteers. He currently teaches English to middle-school students in Fes.


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