Image Credit: Mary Achkhanian/Gulf News

Dubai: A 17-year-old girl from Palestine beat 7.4 million contestants to win this year’s title as the champion of the Arab Reading Challenge.

 Afaf Sharif was crowned during a grand ceremony held at the Dubai Opera House and received Dh550,000 in prize money.
The Al Iman School from Bahrain, meanwhile, bagged the $1-million (Dh3.6 million) prize for the school with the best reading initiatives in the region.
His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, honoured the winners of the competition’s various categories and presented them their awards.

Sherif Sayed Mustafa from Egypt came in at second place, and Hafsa Al Danhani from the UAE came in third after the audience took part in an instant voting poll, choosing Afaf as the first winner of the competition.
Afaf outperformed thousands of students who participated in the competition in Palestine, and was chosen from among 5 finalists and 16 semi finalists.

The top 20 finalists from Arab and other non-Arab countries were also honored. 

The event was attended by several VIP guests, government officials and participants from the Arab region. Cut down to 16 finalists on October 16 and 17 during a gathering at Dubai School, the competition named its final three finalists during the award ceremony.
More than 7.4 million students from 41,000 schools in 25 Arab countries competed in the second round of the Reading Challenge, with incentives worth Dh11 million awarded.
The pan-Arab reading competition was launched by Shaikh Mohammad in 2015 and is the largest initiative of its kind in the region. Now in its second edition, the project aims to promote a sustainable model for reading through an integrated system of student-supervisor follow-ups and support.
Since launched, millions of students have each read and summarised in detail at least 50 books — and some have read far more.
In the UAE alone, over 300,000 students - a 100 per cent increase from last year-  have completed reading 50 books as part of the competition. The top 10 candidates from each emirate were also awarded medals and trophies in a previous award ceremony held earlier in October.

The first place winner will take home $150,000 prize (Dh550,500), while the winning school will be awarded $1 million (Dh3.67 million). As much as $100,000 will be distributed to the principal, $100,000 to the outstanding supervisor who urged the students to participate in the challenge and the remaining $800,000 to the school.

Prizes will also be given to the top ten students, supervisors and competing teams.