ABU DHABI // Pupils across the emirate will be dressing up as their favourite storybook characters on Thursday and taking part in reading activities and contests in celebration of World Book Day.
“This year we are celebrating it in a big way because the UAE Government has designated this year the Year of Reading, so that definitely has added to it,” said Agnes Nathaniel, head teacher of the British division of Zakher Private School in Al Ain.
World Book Day began in the UK 19 years ago as a means to promote literacy by getting one book in the hands of all schoolchildren under the age of 18. British pupils are awarded tokens they can exchange for a free book at participating bookshops in the UK and Ireland.
The initiative has since spread to more than 100 countries and has been designated by Unesco as World Book and Copyright Day, on April 23, though World Book Day is celebrated in the UK on March 3.
In the UAE, bookseller Ruth Kiernan tries to mirror the UK initiative of providing books.
Staff at Bookworm, the Dubai-based bookshop she runs along with business partners will on Saturday, March 26 hand out thousands of specially commissioned books as part of World Book Day.
“Any child that turns up on the day can choose, free, one of these books,” Mrs Kiernan said of the initiative her store has been running for several years. Children come from just about anywhere. The buzz about it is massive.”
Shahida Patel, head of communication and marketing at Al Ain American Private School, said a “huge celebration” was being planned at her school.
Staff and students, dressed as their favourite storybook character, will compete for the best-dressed award, there will be a book sale and a reading corner in the gym. Pupils will also design bookmarks and play games.
“We got staff to write a paragraph about their favourite book and, during break time,” said Mrs Patel, there will be a game.
“There will be photos of staff members, a paragraph about a book and images of the books and pupils will be asked to match which teacher likes which book.”
At Zakher Private School, the pupils will take part in similar activities, such as a parade and a book swap. Parents have also been invited to read to groups of children.
With the popularity of “selfies,” the school has launched a “shelfie” initiative, where students are invited to submit photos of themselves standing by bookshelves in their homes, favourite library or bookshop. The photos will be displayed at the school.
The school also has a system called “Get Caught Reading”. Any student who is “caught reading” a book in the hallway who is able to answer questions about the characters or storyline – to prove they are actually reading the book – will be entered in a monthly raffle to win books. Mrs Nathaniel said the activities helped excite children about reading.
“They talk about it, it has improved their vocabulary skills, it has helped them in their writing skills,” Mrs Nathaniel said.
“They know how to describe a character and just go into the world of imagination.”