Established in 2017, Reading Month is an annual nationwide initiative held every March. It is being held this year under the theme “UAE Reads” and is designed to foster reading as a daily habit across various communities in the country.
"Dedicating a full month to reading is in continuation of an integrated national programme aimed at strengthening a culture of reading and intensifying initiatives and programmes to support it,” Mubarak Al Nakhi, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Culture and Youth, said during a press conference on Monday.
Al Nakhi said the annual event underlines the importance of reading in strengthening the social fabric of the nation and inculcates the reading habit with the help of various local and federal initiatives.
This year, the Reading Month activities will incorporate a number of virtual sessions. The initiative will begin with a session on Tuesday, which coincides with International Women's Day and will have members of the public interact with Emirati luminaries who have made a mark in the field of culture.
Another online session, taking place on Wednesday, March 16, will discuss the impact of bedtime stories on youth and look at the educational and psychological dimensions of children’s literature. An online Emirati poetry evening will be also held on Monday, March 21 to coincide with World Poetry Day, featuring contemporary poets from the UAE who will present their works and discuss how this literary form has transformed over the ages.
The results of the UAE National Reading Index 2021 will also be announced at the end of the Reading Month. The results will reflect on the efficacy of the initiative in making reading a way of life for people in the UAE. The initiative aims to establish reading as a habit among 50 per cent of Emirati adults and 80 per cent of school students by the year 2026.
This year will also mark the launch of the Emirates Literary Youth Majlis, a platform designed to promote literary conversations among the youth and encourage them to engage in critiquing literature.
Here is a look at the initiatives being held by various departments during Reading Month:
Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre
Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre is participating in the 50,000-reader initiative, which aims to provide free subscriptions to read e-books and listen to audiobooks to the public for three months.
Lectures and workshops organised by the ALC throughout the month include The Impact of Classical Arabic on Our Colloquial Dialects, The Art of Writing Children’s Stories, Pioneers in Literature, and The Art of Writing Biographies. The agenda also includes a symposium for those who are preparing for the Exploring Arab Poetry series.
Additionally, the centre is organising an interactive evening programme for children in Umm Al Emarat Park, over the course of three days from Thursday to Saturday, March 17 to 19. The event will feature several themed areas dedicated to reading stories, drawing and playing, competitions and prizes, bookcases, and an entertainment corner.
Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge
Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge, or Adek, is organising the Abu Dhabi Reads campaign. The campaign comprises two main segments. A range of activities will be held at Umm Al Emarat Park from Friday. The events, taking place every Friday to Sunday in March, will feature reading and literature-related workshops including creative writing, bookmark design, public speaking, as well as puppet shows.
Children will also have the opportunity to engage in exciting and interactive storytelling sessions presented by Abu Dhabi authors.
The park pop-up is reserved exclusively for school trips on Friday mornings. It will be open to the general public from 5pm to 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and 3pm to 8pm on Sundays. The list of activities and workshops will be regularly updated on Adek’s website and social media accounts.
A mobile library will also tour Abu Dhabi schools, inviting students to exchange books with the community. Called Library on Wheels, the initiative prompts students to swap the books they’ve read with other titles. The Library on Wheels will move to key landmarks throughout the capital, giving readers the chance to exchange books and enjoy storytelling sessions.
The Dubai Arts and Culture Authority or Dubai Culture will launch three initiatives encompassing 65 different activities during the Reading Month.
These include a two-week exhibition of books in Al Twar Library, reading sessions for children at the Rashidiya and Hor Al Anz libraries, and a workshop on Arabic calligraphy workshop at Hatta library. The authority will also launch more than 100 virtual activities including storytelling sessions in Arabic and English, poetry readings and author talks.
Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi
The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi is launching the 50-year-old Knowledge Cabinet Exhibition at Zayed Central Library, as well as reading sessions with children's books authors and creative writing workshops. The ninth session of the Creative Reader Competition evaluation, and the launch of the third season of the Library Talk Programme, will also be a part of its roster.
Sharjah Book Authority
The Sharjah Book Authority is launching more than 35 activities including seminars targeting groups facing reading challenges, as well as interactive public events combining entertainment and knowledge.
It will also present a number of films based on books that have made a mark in the world of literature. It will also launch a reading club to review and discuss contemporary books.
Emirates Literature Foundation
The Emirates Literature Foundation is presenting several cultural initiatives and long-term projects to foster the habit of reading. It is launching nine initiatives during Reading Month, with two main objectives — to spread a love of reading for fun, and to connect local and international writers and encourage greater communication between them.
One of the foundation’s initiatives is the Reading Caravan. A group of local writers will tour schools across the Emirates to ensure more children have the opportunity to experience the joy of books.
There will also be a book club meeting for the inmates of Dubai’s penal and correctional institutions, as part of the ongoing initiative From the Inside Out, a long-term collaboration between the Emirates Literature Foundation, the Dubai Police and Dubai Central Jail.
The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature’s virtual programme for students has been extended to be available to schools across the UAE for the entire Reading Month. Schools can gain access to recorded conversations with authors featured at the festival as well as interactive content.
Asma Siddiq Al Mutawa First Novel Award
This Reading Month will also mark the launch of the Asma Siddiq Al Mutawa First Novel Award. The award is open to new writers and is named after the founder and president of the Forum Salon.
The Forum Salon will also conduct the Al Multaqa Literary Salon competition on feminist literature on the occasion of International Women’s Day on March 8. The event will host questions on the social media platforms of the salon and give away the awards at the end of the month.