Mohammed Ali Al Yamahi from Fujairah was announced as the UAE winner of the Arab Reading Challenge on Monday.
The Emirati pupil came first among 355,000 participants from across the UAE and will represent the country in the global competition later this year.
Al Nouf Elementary School in Sharjah was announced as the best school in the UAE while Mona Shaheen, a teacher in Sharjah, was named as the best teacher in the country.
“We will win and will make sure the flag of the UAE flies high,” said Mohammed, 17, speaking about the final in October.
“I joined this competition to gain experience and to read more books and show people that reading is beautiful.
“From every book, I learn something such as how I can manage my time or how I can be a better pupil.”
Mohammed, a pupil at Hamad bin Abdullah Al Sharqi School in Fujairah, read more than 200 books to prepare for the competition.
“I read all kinds of books that I could find in my school library and learnt a lot about how to deal with people and how I can use languages,” he said.
“I spent 4-5 hours reading every day. In the Covid-19 pandemic, I spent many hours reading and this was the best thing that I could do in my free time.
“My teachers supported me by telling me how I could reach my goals even with the difficulties we faced.”
Asked if he has a target of how many books he would like to read before the main challenge, Mohammad said he has not restricted himself to a number and would like to read as many books as possible.
The Arab Reading Challenge was launched in 2015 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, to encourage a million young people to read at least 50 books in a year.
The Arab Reading Challenge has a total prize money of Dh11 million.
The Arab Reading champion is selected based on the pupil's ability to articulate general knowledge, their critical thinking and communication skills, plus the diversity of books they have selected.
Sabiha Khalifa Dalmouk, principal of Al Nouf Elementary School in Sharjah, said her school implemented specific reading activities after the Covid-19 pandemic.
“With pupils coming back after distance learning, they missed skills so we concentrated on these skills. We focused on reading in all subjects, not just in Arabic,” said Ms Dalmouk.
Sara Al Nuaimi, director of Mohammed Bin Rashid Global Initiatives, said the challenge attracted 22.5 million participants from 44 countries around the world this year.
The challenge usually starts at the beginning of the academic year, around September and continues until the end of the academic year.
Sheikh Mohammed will crown the global winner at a ceremony in Dubai in October.
Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Public Education and Future Technology, said: “The Arab reading challenge is a very important element of the UAE’s education process and the progression of education within the country.”
In 2021, Jordanian teenager Abdullah Abu Khalaf saw off competition from 21 million school pupils to be crowned Arab Reading Challenge champion and secure a Dh500,000 top prize.