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Anfal Al Zaabi, just 15, has achieved many milestones Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: Anfal Al Zaabi, a 15-year-old Emirati girl in Sharjah, likes to “talk to pages” – her way of describing the art of writing – when she feels she is not getting across to people.

“My definition of writing is talking to papers and sending messages from your heart, via the pages you’re writing on,” said Anfal, a grade 11 student at The American School of Creative Science in Sharjah.

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Anfal Al Zaabi says reading is not just for children, as many grown-ups like to think Image Credit: Supplied

National winner

In 2018, she wrote a story titled ‘Because we are the children of Zayed’, referring to the UAE’s founding father. The story won first place in the ‘Creative Fingertips Competition’, a national school level contest under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The story revolves around a young boy called Hamdan and his invention. “Hamdan had encountered numerous challenges while taking part in a competition, but his determination and unwavering willpower resulted in him being the competition’s victor. Hamdan’s awe-inspiring invention aimed to help people, battling diabetes,” Anfal said. Like Hamdan, she too emerged victorious in her competition.

Arab Reading Challenge finalist

Besides being an award-winning writer, Anfal also loves reading. She was placed among the 10 finalists in the UAE for the 2019-2020 edition of the Arab Reading Challenge, also launched by Shaikh Mohammad. She read over 50 books on various topics as part of the challenge.

Anfal said reading is not just for children, as many grown-ups like to think. “Reading is one of the most important educational activities that each and every member of the community should practice, because reading is the secret behind being successful in different fields. Secondly, reading plays a huge role in self-development. For children and adults alike, reading may help them expand their imagination and develop their critical thinking skills. Reading can also be fun, there is a variety of fiction novels, catering to different age groups, I recommend the ones with insightful information and messages pertaining to morals, especially for children,” she added.

World of books

For the reading challenge, she read over 50 books of diverse genres, about religion, medicine, poetry, leadership, and many more, “all of which, I am confident have taught me important lessons about the different aspects of life”, Anfal said. Her favourite field is medicine – little wonder then her favourite book is also related to medicine. ‘In search of life’ (translated from its Arabic title) by Dr Nafe’ Alyasi is “very special” to Anfal, “as it conveys an important and emotional message between its pages and at the same time is related to medicine”.

Paperback or digital?

Generally, Anfal gravitates towards books on leadership and self-development, but the Arab Reading Challenge broadened her horizons as she got to read varied books. “I have developed a new inclination towards fiction books, but only ones that encompass specific messages pertaining to life,” she said. “Call me old fashioned, but I prefer reading paper books. I’ve felt that holding a book in my hands instils a sense of peace, which I am quite fond of. Moreover, they help me concentrate, and I feel it’s easier to write notes or highlight specific words, which helps improve your vocabulary as well as enables you to understand certain deep meanings that the author is trying to convey.”

Parting words

“My advice to all my peers and fellow students is to fight for their dreams, while being resilient in the face of adversity, without compromising their goals and being patient on their journey, because nothing lasts forever and eventually even this pandemic will come to an end. I like to extend my sincere gratitude and appreciation to my school and my parents for always having my back and for their constant support and I hope to continuously receive the good blessings of everyone,” Anfal said.

Anfal’s milestones

One of 10 finalists in the UAE for Arab Reading Challenge 2019-2020

First place in Creative Fingertips Competition 2018

Second place in the Arabic language competition (at the level of BEAM schools, middle school) 2019

Member of ‘Youth Shura Council 2018-2020

Second place in Social Olympiad competition (at the level of BEAM schools, middle school) 2019

Distinguished Student Award for Arabic Language 2019

Distinguished Student Award for the month of February 2019

A presenter of the Future Speakers Workshop as a member of Ithmaar Student Council 2020

Completion of Ithmaar Media Training Programme organised by Sharjah Press Club 2020