Book prizes for the brightest brains

One hundred and twenty of the highest-performing eight- and nine-year-old children in Al Gharbia received a free bag of books from the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage yesterday as part of an initiative to improve pupils' writing and reading skills.

Children from the Al Hamdania Boys School look through books given to them by Kalima.
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MADINAT ZAYED// One hundred and twenty of the highest-performing eight- and nine-year-old children in Al Gharbia (formerly the Western Region) received a free bag of books from the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach) yesterday as part of an initiative to improve pupils' writing and reading skills. About 10,000 books will be given to children in Al Ain and the Western Region.

Sixty girls and 60 boys from four schools in Al Gharbia were selected for their academic grades to receive the Abu Dhabi Bag for Children, a hessian bag decorated with a rainbow design and filled with 10 books translated into Arabic by Kalima, Adach's translation initiative. The books, including The Moon Shines Down by American author Margaret Wise Brown and Mimi und Mozart by Doris Dörrie from Germany, were selected from a shortlist of 100 titles chosen by Kalima's committee of scholars to widen the children's perspective and to fire their imagination.

Dr Ali bin Tamim, the director of Kalima, said: "The books represent many different cultures and we hope they will improve the writing and reading skills of these children as well as providing them with narrative techniques. It is also important to expose them to international influences. "At the moment there are gaps in the library of Arabic literature; we are aiming to bridge those gaps." Yesterday Dr Tamim and Abdelaziz al Mansouri, the vice minister of education from the Western Educational Zone, presented books to pupils at Al Dhafra Girls' School, Al Khameal Model School, Zayed al Khair Model School for Boys and Al Hamdania Boys' School, in Madinat Zayed.

Heidi Atkins, an English educational adviser with Abu Dhabi Education Council, said that the giveaway would help to develop the pupils' love for books. "In general the children don't spend much time reading. They would rather watch TV or play computer games but we've been working with the schools in the emirate for the last two years to encourage reading. "We've already seen marked improvements so these new books have come at just the right time," she said.

Kalima has set aside 10,000 books to give to children from Al Ain and Al Gharbia. A quarter of these have gone to high-achieving students, the rest will be distributed by the Western Educational Zone and the Ministry of Education to schools across the emirate including those with special-needs students. aseaman@thenational.ae