Children pose for a photograph during the Arab Reading Challenge
Reading shapes minds, builds harmony in society, enhances communication and is the best way to expand one’s knowledge and wisdom. The UAE leadership has laid great stress on creating a generation of readers by promoting the culture of reading among the community.
Following the decision of the UAE Cabinet to allocate March as the annual month of reading, the activities of the National Reading Month have been gaining momentum across the country and this reflects a very positive trend.
The month offers a great opportunity to strengthen the country’s reading culture, which is key to creating the individual and a source of motivation.
In a unique initiative, President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued on Oct.31, 2016 the first law of its kind related to reading, which established legislative frameworks, executive programmes and government responsibilities, to promote reading in a sustainable way, as part of a social and legislative policy that is unprecedented in the region.
The national law of reading seeks to consecrate reading as a fixed feature in all public spaces in the UAE by obliging coffee shops in the commercial centres to provide reading material for customers. The law covers all aspects of reading, including development, dissemination, promotion and supporting systems to ensure the continuity of efforts to devote reading and institutionalise the general cultural effort and ensure its momentum.
The beauty of the entire exercise is that no section of the community is left behind.
For example, the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) deserves praise for spreading the joy of reading among visually-impaired children at a workshop organised in collaboration with the Emirates Association of the Visually Impaired (EAVI).
Through the activity, SBA has continued its mission to engage all children and youth, including those with special needs, in reading and other knowledge-based activities to enhance their creative and linguistic ability.
The workshop featured readings delivered by EAVI experts who read from a selection of children’s books in Braille at the SBA headquarters.
The activities to promote reading are continuing at various levels.
In collaboration with the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, DCT Abu Dhabi, and Emaar Properties, the Kalima Translation Project has released “Skyscrapers: A History of the World’s Most Extraordinary Buildings” by author and structural historian Judith Dupre, translated into Arabic by Ahmad Mahmoud and reviewed by Omar Saeed Al Ayubi.
The translation of this book is part of an agreement between DCT Abu Dhabi and Emaar to promote the ‘We Support Culture’ initiative. This initiative aims to enhance the role of national companies and businesses in the writing, translation, and publishing sector, contribute to the development of book publishing and distribution, and have a positive impact on the cultural scene and reading communities in the region.
The Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, ECSSR, has also launched “A Book in an Hour” initiative, as part of the month of reading.
The centre is hosting a prominent writer on every Monday of this month. The UAE Federation Library, which is affiliated with the ECSSR and considered one of the most important libraries at the regional and international levels, is the largest library in the UAE that specialises in the political, economic, social, strategic, and military fields.
In a reading-related activity, the Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre has held various activities for the Second Environmental Reading Forum, organised by Al Ain Zoo. This comes as part of its mission to raise awareness of the importance of preserving the environment and nature, targeting emerging generations and involving the participation of a number of governmental and private institutions alongside the different sections of Al Ain Zoo.
Interestingly, the activities kicked off with a National Geographic Magazine session entitled ‘Reading is Fun and Informative’, followed by the “Al Hakawati” workshop. The exhibition also included interesting interactive activities such as recycling, Arabic calligraphy, “Make your own bookmark”, make an environment-friendly book, discover the Ghaf tree and an awareness session entitled “It’s not too late to change.”
The UAE leadership deserves all praise for bringing the UAE community closer to books and reading. Ensuring knowledge and wisdom will help make the future society strong, tolerant, informative, confident, and also prosperous.