High hopes for reading aloud contest

Children from 18 schools are to take part in a reading aloud contest that organisers hope will change their attitude towards reading.

ABU DHABI // Children from 18 schools will take part in a reading aloud competition that organisers hope will change their attitude towards books. Grade 5 pupils will be judged as they read short passages from Arabic texts in several rounds of competition. The winners will be determined at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair in March. The event is sponsored by Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach), Abu Dhabi Education Zone (Adez), and Kitab, the organisers of the book fair.

"We want to move children away from the idea that reading is only done on a solitary basis and it has to be boring and serious. We want them to enjoy reading aloud to each other and to engage the whole family in the activity," said Dana al Sarraj, the manager of the competition. "We believe to bring people back to the book, we have to remind them that books are great." Participants will read aloud for two to three minutes in front of a panel of judges. They will be rated on the tone of their delivery and their reading technique. The panel will also determine how well the child understands the context of the passage by asking how it relates to the rest of the book.

"We want them to see the importance of engaging in the entire story, not just the portion they choose to read," Ms al Sarraj said. "Plus, we want them to be able to entertain their audience." Mohammed Salem al Dhahiri, the director of Adez, said the competition would enhance the education system. "[We want to] help nurture a new generation committed to and capable of supporting the continued success of the emirate's development and growth," he said.

The opening round will begin this morning, when 55 participants will be selected for the second round later this month. The field will be whittled to 20 for the third round, and five finalists will be selected to attend the last round at the book fair on March 6. The three best readers will win a collection of 12 books and a voucher to further boost their libraries. The overall winner will receive an additional prize and the chance to be on the judging panel in next year's competition.