A new project has been launched by the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum to encourage reading in the Arab world.
The ‘Arab Reading Challenge’ will see with more than a million students committing to read 50 million extracurricular books during one academic year, official news agency WAM reported.
A total of $3m (Dhs 11m) will also be offered as awards to participating schools, students, their families, and supervisors from across the Arab world as monetary and motivational incentives.
The challenge aims to encourage reading on a continuous basis through follow-up mechanisms throughout the year.
It contains five stages, each of which entails the reading and summary of 10 books by participating students. This is followed by qualification stages at the level of schools, educational districts and countries.
The execution phase starts in September and the 50 million book reading challenge will run from early October until the end of March 2016.
The final qualifications for winners on the Arab world level is set to be held in Dubai at the end of May 2016, the report added.
Sheikh Mohammed said: “The Arab world is suffering from a reading crisis whose consequences we see and feel every day in this region. Reading opens minds, magnifies hunger for knowledge, and instills the values of openness and moderation that define great civilizations.”
Reports have suggested that reading levels are low in the Arab world. The average reading time for an Arab child is six minutes per year compared to 12,000 minutes in the West, according to a report by the Arab Thought Foundation.
The reading rate of an Arab individual is a quarter of a page a year compared with 11 books in the United States and seven books in the United Kingdom, another study conducted by the Supreme Council of Culture in Egypt found.
Sheikh Mohammed said: “The first book a child reads opens the first door in that child’s brighter future. The 50 million-book challenge is the first of many steps. It will be followed by many initiatives.”
In terms of the challenge’s incentives and monetary rewards, $150,000 will be awarded to the winning student, of which $100,000 will be in the form of a university scholarship and $50,000 in the form of a cash reward to the student’s family for their encouragement.
Teachers participating in the challenge as supervisors will receive $300,000 while participating schools and students will get up to $1m in total.
The school with the highest level of participation in the Arab world will also be granted $1m, the report said.
The challenge, launched in collaboration with the MBC group, will have its headquarters at Dubai’s School of Research Science.
Sheikh Mohammed added: “The goal is to create a new generation, a new hope and a new reality. Today we set this challenge for the Arab educational sector, Arab parents, and Arab children and youth. We have every faith in their abilities to achieve the goal.”