ABU DHABI // They are the people who brought to young readers such books as Clifford the Big Red Dog, Goosebumps and The Hunger Games.
For nearly a century, Scholastic has been one of the world's leading publishers of books and educational material. And this week, the company joins The National to promote the cause of reading in a spectacular way.
In coming months, schools can win a share of more than 40,000 books in the Year of Reading, declared for 2016 by the President, Sheikh Khalifa.
Each week, The National and Scholastic will pick three pupils who will win a collection of books for their classrooms.
Shane Armstrong, president of international sales at Scholastic, says the publisher is "really pleased to be working with The National".
“I’ve never seen such an emphasis on getting children to read,” Mr Armstrong says.
“Sales of children’s books are growing around the world, faster than those for adults.”
This month the challenge is for pupils – with help from parents and teachers if needed – to submit a photograph of the last book they read. Several entries are allowed if more than one book is read.
The books are aimed at English-language primary and secondary pupils, and Arabic primary school pupils up to the age of 11.
Winners in each English-language category will receive a digital collection of 323 books, with print editions of 200 books going to the Arabic winner.
In total, more than 40,000 books are being given away this year.
While the initiative is new, Scholastic has been established in the Middle East for about 25 years.
Mr Armstrong is optimistic about engaging children with reading in the Arabic market, often regarded as a tough sell in the world of publishing.
“We see an increasing focus on literacy and reading, which is our core, where our mission and our personality lies.”
Scholastic was founded in Pittsburgh in 1920 and has grown to become the largest children’s publisher in the world, while encouraging reading and writing through competitions, awards, book fairs and clubs.
When it entered the Middle East market, Scholastic made extensive use of translations of titles, but it is increasingly developing local authors and educational projects tailored to local needs.
After opening a Dubai office in 2011, it has developed “My Arabic Library”, selling millions of books and working with organisations such as the education ministries.
“With My Arabic Library we are working with local authors to develop specific products,” Mr Armstrong says.
In the long run, Mr Armstrong says there should be no reason why a children’s book from a UAE author should not become a worldwide hit.
“Popular children’s books are popular globally, wherever they are.”
To enter, visit www.thenational.ae/uaereadschallenge