When Mrs Al Khayat was at school in Ras Al Khaimah, there were no bookshops with Arabic literature, a situation that was at the time not uncommon.
Bedtime reading key if children are to fall in love with books
DUBAI // Children need role models if they are to be encouraged to read, educators said at a reading roadshow this week where Maitha Al Khayat, the Emirati author and illustrator was a guest speaker.
Sarah Perry, a consultant for the Ministry of Education, said the likes of Mrs Al Khayat are vital in promoting reading in a country where oral tradition is stronger. Until now such efforts have suffered from a lack of role models.
"It's good to have someone [like Maitha] who didn't start off loving reading but to then believe in herself enough to go on and write," she said.
"It's important to see someone who's gone through the process, especially for Emirati children to see an Emirati author."
Mrs Al Khayat spoke at the event yesterday at Dubai Women's College, stressing the importance of her father's bedtime stories as she was growing up in engaging her love of books and story telling, through authors like Roald Dahl and Beatrix Potter.
She has now begun writing her Emirati-themed children's stories in Arabic as well as English. "I don't want my children and the children in our community not to love Arabic," she said.
In 2007, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study found that 44 per cent of Dubai schoolchildren had fewer than 25 books in their home, and just one in eight had more than 100.
Another 2010 study ranked Dubai 42nd out of 65 countries in reading literacy.
Teachers at yesterday's leg of a nationwide reading roadshow, spoke of the difficulty of encouraging children to read.
Elham Hassan, an English teacher at the Jumeirah Model School For Girls, said allocated weekly library time is a constant battle.
"I can't force the children to do it, they've got to love it," she said. Her school's library has this year had a major overhaul and now holds a vast collection of books. That has helped, she said.
When Mrs Al Khayat was at school in Ras Al Khaimah, there were no books or bookshops with Arabic literature, a situation that was at the time not uncommon.
Even in recent years, finding books for her children has not been easy. That, she said, inspired her to write, leading to the publication in 2009 of her first book, I Love My Dad's Long Beard.
"The books were all in English. There was nothing on the UAE, on our culture, our religion. There were signs that told me maybe I could do something."