From left: Najla Al Awar, Minister of Community Development, Abdul Rahman Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention, Mohammad Al Gargawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and Future, Hussain Al Hammadi, Minister of Education, Sultan Bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of State and Chairman of National Media Council, and Afraa Al Sabri, Undersecretary of Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development are seen during the launch of the National Strategy for Reading 2026 at the Abu Dhabi Intl. Book Fair 2016 at ADNEC on May 3, 2016. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Backed by a Dh100 million fund, the UAE on Tuesday announced a 10-year National Policy for Reading to encourage the habit of reading among all age groups and to ensure 80 per cent of children and 50 per cent of adults read actively.

Findings of a national survey revealed during the policy announcement on Tuesday showed individuals in the UAE read 1.5 books per year, while 78 per cent of Emirati adults do not actively read. Also, average Emirati households have only 20 books, compared to 200 books in the United Kingdom. Moreover, the average rate of reading for UAE students is four books per year compared to 40 books in South Korea.

National Reading Law

As part of the policy, President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan said a National Reading Law will be drafted to identify key responsibilities of government agencies. “The UAE has moved during the past few decades from a country seeking to reduce illiteracy to a country seeking global competition in technical and scientific fields. Reading and knowledge are our path to excel and compete,” Shaikh Khalifa said.

The President said the proposed law will boost lifelong learning for people. “The goal of the reading law is to provide a sound basis for lifelong learning for all members of our community and enhance the mental, intellectual and cultural assets of our people,” he said. Also yesterday, a National Reading Strategy was adopted by Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

“The strategy, which carries through 2016, includes 30 main national initiatives sectors including education, health, culture, social development and the media and content industries, a statement from UAE Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and the Future said. “The UAE, under the directives of His Highness the President, will be a pioneer in our region in issuing a law intended to promote, consolidate and support reading,” Shaikh Mohammad said.

“There is no knowledge-based economy without knowledge-based societies... A reading society embraces civilised values, is flexible and adaptable and has the intellectual capacity to drive development to take a role in our multi-cultural world,” he added.

The policy, covering a ten-year period from 2016 to 2026, was announced at a press conference attended by five ministers during the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair yesterday.

The Dh100 million will support all reading activities specifically for NGOs and volunteer based agencies.

Among other initiatives under the new policy, the Cabinet will dedicate one month to reading and distribute ‘Bags of Knowledge’ to parents of new born citizens.

Also, the policy proposes changes in the educational system, curricula and evaluation of schools and institutions of higher education to reverse the decline in reading rates.

Moreover, Uesco standards will be applied for libraries of all public schools and their classification will be raised according to international standards.