x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid leads nationwide search for ideas to promote reading

Last month, Sheikh Mohammed, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, challenged the public to share their best suggestions on how to make “reading a part of the culture, identity and life of our generations” using the hashtag #ReadingYear.

Comic books are seen as an ideal medium to promote reading among children. Antonie Robertson / The National
Comic books are seen as an ideal medium to promote reading among children. Antonie Robertson / The National

DUBAI // A nationwide brainstorming session is under way on social media after Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid asked for ideas on how to promote reading.

Last month, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai challenged the public to share their best suggestions on how to make “reading a part of the culture, identity and life of our generations” using the hashtag #ReadingYear.

Following the success of the Year of Innovation in 2015, the nation’s Rulers have declared 2016 the Year of Reading.

Already, dozens of proposals have been posted on Twitter and Instagram, including building a “library of the world”, designing furniture from recycled books and supporting Emirati comic book writers and illustrators.

“It’s a great initiative,” said Koichi Yokoyama, who has lived in Dubai for nine years.

The Japanese businessman tweeted: “Building reading skills via language of comics is one of the ways. It has worked well in Japan. #ReadingYear.”

He explained that as a child, he was not so keen on reading until he was introduced to comic books.

“Whenever I read the comics, that kind of triggered my curiosity to read more in other books,” said Mr Yokoyama. “Because in comics, of course, there are not many details. They’re easy to capture an idea, easy to also accept and digest. “One way to understand deeply is just to read the books. Comics are kind of like a gateway to the field that I would like to understand more.”

He hoped that the nation’s leaders would support Emirati comic book illustrators and writers .

While such publications could be about any topic, Mr Yokoyama believed that comic books would be a perfect medium for telling stories about UAE culture and heritage.

“The Government’s direction is to enhance the reading skills and this could be one of the best ways.”

Kevin Simpson, founder and managing director of the education consulting firm KDSL, tweeted that he will launch a Real Men Read campaign in March, that he hoped would be picked up nationally.

The campaign is based on similar volunteer reading programmes from the United States and Canada that encourage male role models to read to children in schools or community centres.

“There’s a quote, ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. I think the more and more students see gentlemen interact in that same light, as readers picking books of interest, it’s going to get them engaged,” he said.

“It’s about instilling that love of literacy and that love of reading in students. The more and more that we can do as adults to model that for students, the better.”

Mr Simpson said he hoped Sheikh Mohammed would support the campaign and possibly take part.

“I hope he goes into a classroom, which we’ve seen him do, or locally in the community with a book and snaps a picture with the hashtag #RMRUAE #Dubai.”

Bindu Dilip, a teacher of reiki (hands-on body healing) in Dubai, tweeted: “Have small public libraries all over the country for both adults and children. Invite storytellers from all over the world. #ReadingYear.”

She said the Government should install small, permanent children’s libraries in malls and then develop reading programmes at these centres, such as author visits or storytelling sessions.

“The best thing you can do for children, the best education you can give them, is getting them to read on their own. It broadens their minds, makes them into better people,” she said.

rpennington@thenational.ae