Mariam Amjoun, right, the winner of the Arab Reading Challenge. Image Credit: Mary Achkhanian/Gulf News

Dubai: A Moroccan girl, 9, has won this year's Arab Reading Challenge, beating 10.5 million participants from across the Arab region and the world.

Mariam Lehsen Amjoun, the youngest of five finalists, was crowned during an award ceremony held at the Dubai Opera House and will take home Dh500,000 in prize money.

Meanwhile, The Ekhlas School from Kuwait beat 52,000 schools and bagged the Dh1 million prize for having the best reading initiatives in the region and Aisha Tuwergy from Saudi Arabia took home Dh300,000 for being the “best supervisor” in encouraging students throughout the challenge.

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 awards amounting to Dh11 million (more than $3 million).

The audience took part in an instant voting poll, choosing Amjoun as the first winner of the competition.

A panel of judges were also part of the voting process and had asked the finalists various questions before the top winner was chosen.

Shaikh Mohammad arrives at Dubai Opera to crown the winner of the Arab Reading Challenge. Mary Achkhanian/Gulf News

New this year was another award dedicated to a top winner from a non-Arab country, which was given to Tasneem Aidi from France.

Amjoun had outperformed thousands of students who participated in the competition in Morocco, and was chosen from among five finalists and 16 semi-finalists.

The prize money will go to her university education and for her family for encouraging her to read. 

The top finalists from Arab and other non-Arab countries were also honoured on stage by Shaikh Mohammad.

The third edition of the competition has witnessed a record-breaking number of participants, which had gone up from 7.4 million last year to 10.5 million participants in 2018. 

This year the competition expanded its reach to include students from Arab communities residing in non-Arab countries and non-native speakers of Arabic.

The participants for the 2018 edition came from 44 Arab and non-Arab countries.

Last year, Afaf Raed from Palestine won the title of the champion of the 2017 Arab Reading Challenge. 

The top finalists from Arab and other non-Arab countries being honored on stage by Shaikh Mohammad. Mary Achkhanian/Gulf News

The challenge is the largest-ever Arab literacy initiative encouraging students to read as many books as possible, over 50, in one academic year.

Launched in 2015 by Shaikh Mohammad, the Arab Reading Challenge aims to establish a culture of reading among the new Arab generations across the globe, and highlight the importance of knowledge in shaping their future as well as the future of their communities and countries.

Third edition in numbers:

■  10.5 million participants from 44 countries
■  52,000 schools participated
■  87,000 supervisors participated
■  Dh11 million in prize money
■  Participation has increased by 25 per cent compared to last year