Families must take lead in UAE reading culture shift

Parents, families and the society have to play a key role in transforming the society towards reading and can help the Emirates make its dreams come true for making reading a way of life in the Emirati society by 2026.

ABU DHABI // The UAE needs a cultural shift involving parents and wider society if it is to reach its goal of making reading a way of life, officials have said.

President Sheikh Khalifa issued the National Reading Law last year. More than 115 programmes and activities were organised in Abu Dhabi last month for the Month of Reading.

Parents, families and communities must play a greater role in making reading a lifestyle in the Emirates by 2026, said Dr Rauda Al Saadi, director general of the Executive Committee Office and Abu Dhabi’s representative for implementing the reading law.

“Under the National Reading Strategy, we aim to create a generation that loves reading and we are moving rightly in that direction,” she said on Thursday at a press conference in the capital.

“To achieve the target, families and the society have to play an important role in changing habits of family members and motivating them towards reading.”

Reading habits should be nurtured from childhood through academic stages, Dr Al Saadi said. She said the UAE needs to strengthen its publishing industry.

As part of the national strategy, reading material will be provided to correctional centres and prisoners, who could be rewarded for reading by being pardoned or having their sentences reduced.

Dr Al Saadi said the committee found that a third of Emirati parents do not encourage children to read. The children of parents who do so excel in their examinations.

“Children who are good in reading at initial grades excel in exams and grab good opportunities in job sectors,” she said.

For elderly people, reading reduces loss of memory and decreases the prevalence of dementia by 30 per cent. It also helps improve health conditions for patients in hospital, the committee said.

A study in the United States cited by the committee showed that 75 per cent of pupils in Grade 3 who are poor in reading remain so once they reach secondary education.

Enacting a reading law will help encourage all government entities and their allies to put more effort into creating a generation of good readers.

“It’s duty of all to promote reading in the community,” said Dr Al Saadi.

“Parents have to develop reading habits among their children from a very young age, before their schools, and encourage the practice to carry forward as a behaviour until they reach adulthood.”