Sham Mohammed Al Bakour.
Mohammed Ibrahim, Staff Reporter
Sham Mohammed Al Bakour, a 7-year-old Syrian girl from Aleppo, stole the limelight as the youngest champion in the Arab Reading Challenge in its sixth edition in 2022. Earlier, she won the title of the champion of the challenge in Syria after she had defeated more than 61,000 participants in Syria.
In an interview with Al Khaleej, Sham said she was proud to represent Syria in its first participation in the Arab Reading Challenge, considering that the challenge was a main reason for refining her reading skills and knowledge and boosting her confidence in herself at such a young age.
“The competition in the Arab Reading Challenge is really strong and I do not have enough words to describe how big it is. Yet, it does not call for tension because all the contestants are soldiers on the paths of reading.
The important thing is that I found for myself an influential role in resuming our Arab civilization and enhancing the status of Arabic in our Arab countries, away from the idea of the winner in a race where there are no losers,” Sham said.
Answering a question about her daily reading hours and how she finds a time for studying and another for reading, Sham stated that there were no specific hours for reading because it was her main hobby and she used to read at home, at school and during her social activities.
“My mother helped me organize my time and consequently I had an opportunity to study, another to read and a third to practise my hobby. Hence, it became easy to develop all my interests, but reading was an essential element in my daily life like air, water and food,” she added. Talking about the way she selected books and what these books talked about, Sham said the credit in this aspect partly went to her mother, who helped her with the quality of books and the areas that suited her age.
Thus, she started reading children’s stories and enjoyed the interesting content and fantasy that aroused her curiosity, she added, noting that each book carried direct lessons between the lines and that she could find in the novels greater and deeper meanings than what was in her mind.
Describing how she felt during the stages of competition in the Arab Reading Challenge being among millions of older and more experienced contestants, she said she was happy to be an integral part in such a strong and noble competition as the Arab Reading Challenge. She added that she was proud of being among the largest constellation of the most skilled readers in the Arab world, who were racing for promoting knowledge and strengthening the status of the Arabic language.
A second source of honor lies in representing Syria in her first official participation in the Arab Reading Challenge since its launch in 2015, she added, considering that participation in itself is a victory over cognitive ignorance and illiteracy. Answering a question about how important the Arab Reading Challenge was and how far she benefited from her first experience, Sham stated that the challenge was a turning point in her life.
Reading for the competition over the few past months contributed to increasing her confidence in herself and developing her personality, she added, noting that she felt she was racing her age. “It is enough for this reading to be a real stimulus for the mind and actual nourishment for the soul because it not only gave me the keys to creative thinking but provided me with innovative ideas that surpassed the mentality of a seven-year-old girl,” Sham said.
As for how she participated in the challenge and how many books she read, Sham said she participated thanks to her school’s nomination and the help of her reading supervisor, who had a fundamental role in encouraging and empowering her to read more than 70 books and hence win over more than 61,000 participants in Syria.
“Each of my friends who participated in the challenge is a "champion. Reading is the beginning of the road to the future of science and everyone who reads will succeed, develop and excel. My wish is to become a distinguished doctor,” she said.
As part of her message to the people of the Arab world, Sham said she had a first special message to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. “Here are my heartfelt thanks to the big heart for this initiative that brought Arab generations together to empower our Arab civilization and boost the status of the Arabic language.”
This month’s series of sessions will honour those who perhaps have recently been unable to be with their children and read stories to them, due to being occupied by their duties on the frontlines and serving the country in its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We are stronger with Arab youth who believe in the power of words," tweets Sheikh Mohammed.
Anwar took home Dhs500,000 after outperforming four finalists with her ability to communicate accurately and creatively in Arabic.
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The rare two-volume set is a copy from the second edition of the 1764 English language translation of the Quran by English author George Sale.
The event, which took place at the Zoya Health & Wellbeing Resort in Al Zorah, Ajman, was attended by Sheikh Abdullah bin Majid Al Nuaimi.