For the past few years, the month of March has been officially dedicated to literary pursuits in the UAE.
It all started in 2017, following the Year of Reading in 2016. In October of that year, the President, Sheikh Khalifa announced a Reading Law that obliged schools to encourage reading among pupils, in addition to promoting a respect for books.
He also launched the Arab Reading Challenge, the largest Arab knowledge initiative in the world, in 2015.
That love of literature has only arguably become stronger since many of us have spent more time than ever at home with our noses in books during the pandemic.
Each year, the Month of Reading comes with a theme, and in 2021 it is My Family Reads.
Here are a few of the events book enthusiasts can expect from literary organisations this month.
Maktaba to host more than 150 workshops and events
Maktaba at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi has announced it will organise more than 150 workshops and events to mark the national Month of Reading. These have been designed to suit audiences of different interests and age groups.
It will host numerous authors, trainers and specialists in various fields, including author Dr Wafa Al Shamsi, education consultant Fatima Al Ali, Emirati composer Eman Al Hashemi, secretary of the Deaf Association Salama Hamad Al Tamimi, and Major Abdullah Al Hadrami from Saif Bin Zayed Academy for Police and Security Sciences – to name a few.
Several workshops will also be held, led by the likes of authors Dr Aisha Al Shamsi, Shahd Al Abdoul, Nasser Al Dhaheri and Kaltham Al Falasi. The director of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Library at King’s Academy, a specialist in libraries at the Ministry of Presidential Affairs and the director of Dubai Public Libraries, will also be involved.
For children, there will be reading sessions in both Arabic and English, as well as arts and crafts workshops, including one in which they will learn how to design a story’s cover and another by the Children’s Theatre that will allow them to act out a story while wearing costumes.
Meanwhile, for adults, workshops on topics such as the importance of reading and its role in forming linguistic abilities will be held, as well as ones on how to instil within children a passion for books and self-development through music. There will also be reading sessions in Spanish, Chinese and Korean.
A number of sessions for people with disabilities will take place, too, covering the challenges often faced with reading and how to overcome them.
On World Poetry Day, which falls every year on March 21, Maktaba will host a Khaleeji poetry evening, as well as a virtual seminar called Feminist Literature and Women's Writings in the UAE.
Emirati author Eman Al Yousuf and Emirates Literature Foundation chief executive Isobel Abulhoul OBE will also host a seminar about the importance of festivals in promoting reading.
For the full calendar of events, click here.
Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre launches diverse calendar of cultural programmes
The capital's Arabic Language Centre has also launched a number of initiatives for the Month of Reading. This includes a virtual Arabic-language programme, entitled Ad-Dhad Language, that will be held in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge, consisting of 10 educational sessions.
The announcement of 30 books by the Kalima Project for Translation and Esdarat will also take place. A new book will be named daily throughout the month, with the centre collaborating with literary salons to organise four virtual seminars that will introduce audience to these titles.
The centre's social media accounts will also present Originally Fusha, Essentially Emirati, a series of daily videos that include Arabic words used in the Emirati dialect.
More information is at arabiclanguagecentre.com
Sheikh Zayed Book Award hosts seminars
The Sheikh Zayed Book Award will organise two online seminars in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, hosting Richard van Leeuwen, a senior lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Amsterdam and winner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Arabic Culture in Other Languages in 2010, and Dr Assef Ashraf, a lecturer in Eastern Islamic Studies at the College of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.
The seminar, entitled The Impact of One Thousand and One Nights on World Literature in the 20th Century, will take place on Thursday. While highlighting the prominence of the book, it will also shed light on authors whose works have contributed to shaping leading trends in literature in the past century.
The Sheikh Zayed Book Award will also hold a panel discussion in co-operation with Publishing Perspectives magazine, part of the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Entitled Presence of Arabic Content in Academic Publishing, it will take place with a group of publishers and authors from around the world, tackling a theme of under-representation of Arab voices in academic publishing. Participants will discuss how publishers can ensure that Arabic-speaking scholars are represented and how smaller firms can ensure their content is more widely accessible.
More information is at zayedaward.ae
Sharjah Public Library offers free annual membership
The Sharjah Public Library has announced the launch of two initiatives in celebration of the Month of Reading.
The first, Everyone’s Library, offers a free basic membership for one year for those registering in March, either online or in person.
The second, called Reader to Reader, is an initiative involving the exchange of books among Sharjah Public Library employees, whereby each person will offer a book they have previously read to a colleague. They will then be given the opportunity to discuss what they’ve read in special weekly sessions entitled 30 Minutes for Reading.
More information is at spl.gov.ae