New partnership between ELF and UAE publisher aims to foster love of reading in children

The non-profit foundation and Al Hudhud Publishing aim to protect the Arabic language with initiative

The partnership will make more books with regional stories available in schools participating in the Reading for Pleasure initiative. Getty Images
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Emirates Literature Foundation has announced a new partnership with the aim to make reading more accessible for students across the UAE.

As part of its Reading for Pleasure initiative, the not-for-profit organisation and the governing body of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is working with Al Hudhud Publishing and Distribution, an Emirati publishing house known for its list of diverse Arabic children stories.

Launched last year and due to run for five years, the initiative involves six schools in the UAE alongside three universities. It has already delivered 3,000 books to the schools through Al Hudhud’s donation, as well as a cash donation from DP World for the programme.

Over the next four years, Al Hudhud will continue to donate and the universities involved will test students to see how they have benefitted from the programme, which includes sessions about reading and more exposure to books. This will be the first case study on reading for pleasure in the region.

The partnership will see Al Hudhud work alongside the foundation to supply classroom libraries with books in Arabic, both by regional authors and translated stories, and organise training and awareness sessions for teachers and parents.

Isobel Abulhoul, founder, advisor and trustee of ELF, believes this new partnership is vital to ensure that students have access to interesting and age-appropriate reading material.

“This will help cultivate a lifelong habit of reading as it will engage and sustain interest in literature from a young age,” she tells The National.

“By sourcing books from and about the region, we are ensuring that these children see themselves represented in the literature they are consuming. This fosters a strong sense of belonging and identity and promotes empathy and an understanding of diverse perspectives.”

Al Hudhud is making its catalogue of books available for free to classroom libraries in the six schools participating in the initiative.

"The hope is that this collaboration will foster a love for reading among children, spark their imagination, and broaden their horizons through exposure to diverse stories and perspectives," says Ali AlShaali, founder of Al Al Hudhud Group.

"Our long-term goal is to nurture a generation of avid readers who are empowered by the knowledge and imagination found within the pages of books, thereby laying the groundwork for a more literate and empathetic society."

The class groups who will benefit partnership start at kindergarten, going up to grade six. Schools will select books based on grade levels and appropriate topics. This process aims to ensure a unique and enjoyable reading experience for students while aligning with their educational objectives.

One of the aims of the Reading for Pleasure initiative is to encourage reading in Arabic, fostering a love for the language and protecting it as a mother tongue.

"Early exposure to reading and children’s books in accessible Modern Standard Arabic cements the habit of reading in children and parents,” says Hanada Taha Thomure, the chair professor of Arabic Language at Zayed University.

“It gives children when they grow up a fantastic escape and a great skill on which much of their learning, critical thinking, communication skills, identity and internal well-being are all based on.”

Despite the majority of children’s publishing content being more accessible in English, Thomure also points out that the landscape for Arabic publishing is changing and that schools, teachers and parents must take advantage of this through initiative such as Reading for Pleasure.

“There is currently a renaissance in Arabic publishing for children,” she says, saying that the children’s literature is better "than ever before, and it will keep on getting better over time".

"However, we need to succeed in making reading a national habit that is exercised in every home and every classroom,” Thomure adds.

To foster a culture of reading in all aspects of children’s lives, Abulhoul emphasises the importance of involving not only students and teachers, but parents as well.

“Young readers need this support and guidance beyond the classroom, at home as well," she says.

"Parents are well-positioned to offer a reading environment at home and engage on a more personal level, leading by example, and spending quality time reading stories to their children daily.”

Updated: May 16, 2024, 7:02 AM