Dubai schools to celebrate reading on World Book Day

Like schools across the emirate pupils and staff at Dubai British School Jumeirah Park will be celebrating World Book Day on Thursday.

Grace Rainey, left, and Haseebullah Habibulrahman right, read books with head teacher Mike Stewart in the library at the Dubai British School in Jumeirah Park. Satish Kumar / The National
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DUBAI // Residents be warned: the streets this morning will be full of Harry Potters and Pippi Longstockings.

Schools will on Thursday celebrate World Book Day, with many asking pupils to dress as their favourite book characters.

And parents have been advised to regularly read with their children to nurture a love of books.

Mike Stewart, deputy head of Dubai British School Jumeirah Park’s primary school, said the day was a great chance to switch off screens and open pages.

“In the modern world, with technology there are a lot more distractions for children so it’s very important that they develop a regular routine to curl up with a good book,” Mr Stewart said. “We know from research that children who read improve their writing skills and it has a knock-on effect in other subjects.”

Irish pupil Grace Rainey, 11, will not take much reminding of how worthwhile and fun reading is. She will dress as Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games for school on Thursday.

“She’s one of my favourite characters but I like to read lots of different things,” Grace said. “I like fiction and non-fiction, but especially mystery books like The Secret Garden.”

As a Christmas present, she asked her parents for more books and now has eight waiting to be read.

Next week, Dubai British School Jumeirah Park will hold its literature week, where children will be encouraged to write.

“We have various poets coming into the school to read to the children and also have mystery readers, where parents come and read,” said Mr Stewart.

But he said there were many distractions for child readers. “With so many popular books being adapted for films, many children will not want to read something they have seen on screen, so it’s a case of finding stuff that hasn’t gone through that process.

“There’s no point going against the tide regarding new technology. Instead, use that technology to get children engaged in reading, be that through doing online research for lessons or reading on an iPad.”

He advised parents to sit down with their children and teach them the phonetics of the words and letter sounds as they read, then keep pace with their development.

Haseebullah Habibulrahman, 11, from Afghanistan, is another avid young reader. Haseebullah makes sure all his homework and other chores are done so that he can have his time with his books.

“I like reading English books because it is helping to improve my language skills,” he said. “I read when I’m bored or have nothing to do, and at home during school days I’m not allowed to use the computer so I usually read.”

He is engrossed in the Harry Potter series and is re-reading The Count of Monte Cristo.

Nicholas Bruce, deputy curriculum leader at Gems Wellington International School, said pupils at his school had been encouraged to read a new book in preparation for the event.

“Encouraging a child to read at home is the most important academic activity a parent can promote, as it is through reading that a child expands their vocabulary and learns how to write engaging texts,” Mr Bruce said.

“Reading good quality writing every day, whether this is fiction or non-fiction, is a must for any student and should be encouraged by parents.”

This year was declared the Year of Reading by the President, Sheikh Khalifa, whose directives were implemented by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.

*Additional reporting by Roberta Pennington.