Reading prize put young winner on the write track
DUBAI // Mohammed Farah still cannot believe his love of reading was the spark that changed his life.
As winner of last year’s Arab Reading Challenge, Mohammed received US$100,000 (Dh367,230) for his tertiary education and $50,000 for his family.
The youngster, who stole the hearts of many people with his poetic greetings and love for the Arabic language, said the win had encouraged him to write short stories and essays.
“The Arab Reading Challenge has opened the door for me to a bigger world of reading and learning,” said the eight-year-old Algerian.
“The books I read are books that I live with night and day.
“I love to read, and I love to write. I have come to love learning because of my mother and father, who always encouraged us.”
When asked about the US$150,000 (Dh550,880) prize he won, he said: “Reading in itself is the reward.”
His father, Abdel Qader Farah, said he and his wife raised their children to enjoy learning and the prize would help them encourage that further.
“The prize has allowed us to be more financially comfortable and give our children more opportunities in education,” said the parent of three.
Mr Qader Farah said his daughter Fatima, 6, was taking part in this year’s competition.
He praised Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, for launching the Arab Reading Challenge.
“Sheikh Mohammed has given children an incentive to learn and read, which is a reward even if you don’t win the competition,” Mr Farah said.
More than 3.5 million pupils from 21 countries took part in last year’s challenge, reading 150 million books.
It is hoped that this year’s challenge will attract double that number.
The annual Arab Reading Challenge was launched by the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai to encourage young people to read Arabic.
In December, the Dubai Customs Library of Customs Training Centre distributed 10,000 books to public areas, schools and universities, to encourage more people to pick up a book and spend more time reading.
The Dubai Reads drive, in partnership with Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation in the spirit of the Year of -Reading, is also delivering knowledge bags containing four books.
Last year, 148,000 people across 22 Arab nations completed a survey to reveal how often they read, and for how long.
The Arab Reading Index revealed that people in the UAE read for about 51 hours a year – an average of 24 books, compared to 35 hours average in the rest of the region, equating to 16 books.
Lebanon topped the index with 59 hours of reading a year covering 29 books.
Sheikh Mohammed said the challenge “is the UAE’s message to the world that the Arabs’ weapon was and will remain knowledge, education and open-mindedness. We are positive this cultured and tolerant generation can spread hope and build the future.
“The Arab Reading Challenge is proof that we, as Arabs, can work together to achieve a lot. The generation that reads also builds and flourishes.”
For more information, visit arabreadingchallenge.com.