Abu Dhabi: Leading educators in the UAE praised the country’s leadership for declaring 2016 as the Year of Reading.

President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced the programme last week, and said the initiative’s aim was to continue moving the country towards a knowledge-based economy, and nurturing a generation of readers would be the best way to reach that goal.

Abu Dhabi University Provost Dr Richard Gibb said the country would reap several rewards with the Year of Reading.

“You cannot separate scholarship and knowledge from reading. If a society is able to participate in active reading, this will result in a more knowledgeable society, and a knowledgeable society is a very positive thing for the country’s economy, culture and stability,” he told Gulf News.

Dr Gibb welcomed the fact that the attention is back on reading. “Books and reading had almost lost [being on the] centre stage, and this initiative should hopefully encourage the younger generation to not neglect books,” he said.

“There are different ways of obtaining information these days, but the primary way is still through reading. It can be reading electronic books, newspapers or literary texts,” Dr Gibb added.

Khalifa University President, Dr Tod Laursen, said the move was significant for the Arab world.

“This puts Arab countries where they need to be in terms of what they value,” he said.

“An initiative like this says a lot for the leadership of the country [and what it values], and it’s an excellent message for the Arab world to send to the rest of the world,” he added.

Dr Laursen also remarked that reading is the best way of forming critical thinking. “Not everything works well when being presented on television, Facebook, Instagram and other social media sources,” he said.

“Citizens need to be able to value ideas and grasp complexities, they need to be able to read an argument, and to make a counter argument. This does not happen automatically. I believe it comes down to being able to read and write,” he added.

Reading is also the main foundation of knowledge and success, according to Dr Laursen. “Even if the information is technological, the person still has to read that information. Technological information is not just about equations, it’s about the explanations behind equations, the assumptions going into calculations and designs,” he explained.