Libraries and the UAE reading initiative
Without official enticement, and without governments leading education and development plans, societies will not develop
On May 10, I was a guest at the Dubai Press Club. During one of the sessions, the young men and women participating enriched the discussion, which was about reading. At the same time, Dubai announced a Ramadan campaign called “A nation that reads,” which aims to collect and print 5 million books in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and distribute them worldwide.
The initiative comes within the context of several campaigns sponsored by Vice President and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who wrote: “I promised our students in the UAE to award them certificates if they complete the reading challenge and read 50 books. 50,000 students completed the challenge.
“Today I began fulfilling my promise, and signed the first set of certificates and distributed them myself. We will have certificates for each one of them delivered to his/her school. The reading challenge [has enriched] our children’s culture and knowledge, and when they read 5 million books every year, the future will be better and more beautiful.”
We look forward to a generation that understands the value of books, not just as a means of entertainment but as a source of knowledge, and a key to change and societal renewalTurki Aldakhil
Students responded strongly to this reading challenge. Without official enticement, and without governments leading education and development plans, societies will not develop. Reading does not grow by preaching or making statements, but by official support and institutional preparation.
Encouraging and developing public libraries will make young people go there not just to do school-related research, but to read and gain knowledge. A library influences the relation with reading and transforms it into a habit. It is not measured by its size but by its content.
In his book The Library at Night, Argentinian-Canadian author Alberto Manguel wrote that French novelist Marcel Proust “was aware that the national library is a place for daily public affairs - a symbol of the country’s cultural wealth and the practical place which ordinary readers need to effectively and comfortably read.”
Reading is a complete experience and a space for serenity. Official and civil efforts to improve libraries and turn them into comfortable, efficient and practical spaces will keep readers interested. We look forward to a generation that understands the value of books, not just as a means of entertainment but as a source of knowledge, and a key to change and societal renewal. “The love of libraries, like most loves, must be learned,” wrote Manguel.
This article was first published in Al Bayan on June 15, 2016.
Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.
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