Seven-year-old pupil in Al Ain sets up a free library to encourage other children to read

Ayaan Tariq, who is in the third grade, started the library with 500 books from his personal collection

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A seven-year-old pupil in Al Ain has started a free library with his collection of 500 books to motivate children to read

Ayaan Tariq, who is in the third grade, hopes to reduce screen time among his peers by fostering a love of reading.

He set up the library for the children in his district in January, and more than 100 people have borrowed books.

“I love books and started reading when I was three years old,” he said.

“I started this library six months ago because I wanted others to enjoy reading and did not want them to stare at screens all day.”

Ayaan has invited children aged four to 13 to visit his library.

“I made sure my library was free because if people had to pay, they would think I was doing this for money,” he said.

“Some of my friends and neighbours come over and at least 15 children borrow books every month.”

Ayaan also enjoys recommending books to others.

His father passed on his reading habit to Ayaan and his mother bought him books.

Ayaan started reading activity books but graduated to fiction.

The pupil at Brighton College Al Ain has amassed his collection over many years and has books suited to children aged four to 13.

Al Ain pupil opens free library with 500 books

Al Ain pupil opens free library with 500 books

Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Francesca Simon's Horrid Henry books and Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants tales are among his favourites.

He also enjoys books for advanced readers, including those by David Walliams.

The family converted a room outside their home into a library, and Ayaan maintains a record when lending books.

He follows Covid-19 safety measures and children have to wear masks and gloves at the library.

Books are disinfected after each use and children are asked to sanitise their hands when they come over to borrow a book.

“One day, I was buying a book for Ayaan and the shopkeeper asked me if I had an older child I was purchasing the book for,” said his mother, Moomal Tariq, a doctoral student at UAE University.

“When I told him it was for my seven-year-old son, he said it was meant for older children. When he heard Ayaan read, he was surprised.

“I realised that his literacy skills were advanced for his age and invested in books for him.”

When the family travels home to Pakistan, they carry bags full of books for Ayaan.

“Our message to people is that children should not be glued to screens,” Ms Tariq said.

“Children should be introduced to books as early as possible.

“Whenever we travel somewhere, we don’t give Ayaan any gadgets.

“Give your children books so they can be introduced to different worlds every day.”

She said Ayaan’s principal, Jonathan McArthur, and other teachers encouraged him to read by giving him new books every week.

Ayaan’s father, Dr Tariq Farhad, a family doctor in Al Ain, said his son had finished the prescribed reading for Grade 3 and was already on fourth-grade books.

Ayaan is working on publishing his detective comic and aims to be an author or a painter when he grows up.

The pupil won the story-writing competition at Sharjah Book Festival in 2019, receiving the prize of Dh3,000.

He has a variety of fiction, non-fiction and Islamic books in his collection.

Daisy, the Quest Adventures collection and books from the How to Train your DragonBig Nate and Mr Gum series are among the titles on the shelves.