UAE Reads campaign buzz reaches Northern Emirates

Residents of Fujairah and Ajman greet the Year of Reading with enthusiasm as officers plan mobile libraries for villages.

Zainab Al Ali, a dentistry student from Ajman University, is among hundreds of book lovers who make use of the public library at the Fujairah centre. Satish Kumar / The National
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Libraries and residents in the Northern Emirates are keen to embrace the Year of Reading, which aims to inspire more people to take up Arabic books.
Residents of Fujairah, particularly children, are being encouraged to read more by many initiatives organised by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development at three libraries.
In Ajman, one library founder is encouraging more schools to take pupils on field trips to libraries.
Last month, President Sheikh Khalifa declared 2016 the Year of Reading. In September Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, launched the Arab Reading Challenge, which runs until April.
The plan is to turn the national and regional competition where children are challenged to read 50 Arabic books in one year into an annual event.
Fujairah has ministry centres in Masafi, Dibba and Fujairah city and each has a public library with more than 25,000 books, besides a children's library.
Sultan Malieh, manager of the Fujairah centre, said plans were afoot to open small libraries in some government institutions and introduce mobile libraries to reach rural areas.
Masafi centre manager Amal Al Kaabi said creating a generation with the reading habit would benefit the country. "We appreciate our leaders' initiatives and vision, and our goal is to support their ideas and work on achieving them," she said.
"Our agenda is rich, with many activities and programmes that focus on reading and addresses adults, students and children.
"Each week, we organise an activity for our members and school students, such as children's storytelling and competitions like the best reader, depending on the number of books they read each month, and another competition on the number of library visits for children aged between 3 and 13."
Aya Al Shweikh, a 21-year-old Palestinian student of business studies at Ajman University in Fujairah, said: "I love reading and studying in the library. I visit the library twice a month and, during exams. It's so quiet and useful.
"My mother and my aunt encouraged me to read and I buy books all the time. I enjoy reading history books and novels and I encourage my friends to read, too.
"Books can take you anywhere you want and can teach you many things in life."
Salim bin Abdulla Al Humaid, 70, who set up the Salim bin Abdulla Al Humaid General Islamic Library in Ajman in 1988, said more schools should take their pupils to libraries.
"Schools can solve the children's problem and improve the reading rate," he said.
"Schools should always take students on cultural trips to libraries and push them to read.
Mr Al Humaid also highlighted parents' role in encouraging their children to read and instilling the love of reading.
"They [parents] should be going to the library with them from an early age," he said.
"I heard through the media about the Year of Reading, and it is great idea because reading is necessary in people's lives and it has benefits for society in all fields."
Yousef Al Yamahi, an Emirati resident of Fujairah city, said his children's school was proactive when it came to reading.
"The school always takes them to visit the public library - we didn't have such encouragement in the past, which is why I don't read much. But I try to teach my kids and advise them on the importance of reading," said the 43-year-old.
Waheed Ismail, a 37-year-old Egyptian who works at Dubai library distributors in Fujairah, said: "We sell more than 100 books each month and 60 per cent of them are children's books.
"Children come either with their parents or with the school [group]. They buy educational books plus story and colouring books."
Mohammed Ali Al Matrooshi, 27, an Emirati petrol station manager who was at Mr Al Humaid's library, said: "Kids have started reading books online, which is positive and negative. Positive because books are available for everyone, and negative because it has pushed kids away from going to libraries.
"Schools, parents and libraries should work together to improve reading among kids and all people."