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Officials from several entities announced their line up of events supporting the month-long campaign during a gathering at Mohammed bin Rashid Library in Dubai on Wednesday Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The Ministry of Culture and Youth has launched a national initiative to provide financial grants to support and empower national reading projects.

The announcement was made by the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture and Youth, Mubarak Al Nakhi, on the occasion of the start of the National Reading Month dedicated to March.

The new initiative is titled Ibda’a. The target beneficiaries of the financial grant will be literary salons, reading clubs and individual reading projects. According to Al Nakhi, the national initiative aims to provide support and empower national reading projects and initiatives that seek to establish a culture of reading as a daily habit among members of the UAE society.

Reading index

Another major announcement made by the Undersecretary saw the launch of a UAE-wide National Reading Index 2023. The index is established in cooperation with the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Centre. “The UAE National Reading Index 2023 is a strategic indicator that aims to measure the status of reading among members of the local community. It will support and enable the authorities concerned with reading to implement development policies and help promote the culture of reading,” said Al Nakhi.

He added: “Work is currently underway to implement the index in cooperation with the Ministry’s strategic partners, the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, Zayed University, and the Arab Reading Challenge initiative.”

Al Nakhi said traditional book reading will not be negatively impacted by the disruption from artificial intelligence. “If anything it will have a positive impact on the concept of reading,” said Al Nakhi in response to a question by Gulf News.

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Month-long activities

The Ministry of Culture and Youth, on Wednesday, March 1, unveiled activities for the National Reading Month for 2023.

The annual event which dedicates the month of March as the National Reading month saw industry experts come together to talk about their initiatives for the month to push reading in the UAE.

Moza Ibrahim Al Akraf Al Suwaidi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Community Development; Abdullah Majid Al Ali, Director-General of the National Archives and Library; Dr Saeed Kharbash, CEO of the Arts and Literature Sector, Dubai Culture and Arts Authority; Mohammed Al Hashemi, Executive Director of the Student Wellbeing Sector, Emirates Schools Establishment; and Saeed Hamdan Al Tunaiji, Executive Director of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre were among those present at the event.

The conference was also attended by Ali Obaid, Vice Chairman of the Culture and Science Symposium, Jamal Al Shehhi, Board Member of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Library Foundation, Shaikha Al Muhairi, Director of Public Libraries – Abu Dhabi, Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, Iman Bushleibi, Director of Public Libraries Department – Sharjah, Sharjah Book Authority, Dania Droubi, Chief Operating Officer and Head of Education Initiatives at Emirates Literature Foundation, and Asma Al Mutawa, Founder and President of Al Multaqa Literary Salon.

Discounts on books

The Ministry of Culture and Youth is working in cooperation with its partners from commercial libraries in the country to offer discounts on books, where the list of participating libraries include United Library, Borders, Dar Molhamoun for Publishing and Distribution W.L.L.C, Magrudy Projects LLC, Al Safa Library.

The Ministry also said it is working with the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, Dubai Culture Authority and Sharjah Book Authority for a discounted book fair to provide the public with books at nominal prices ranging from Dh3 to 10, to be held in major public libraries in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah for a week.

Diverse events

Dubai Culture and Arts Authority also launched three initiatives for the National Reading Month 2023. The first being, Dubai Public Libraries in the (Discounted Book Exhibition), Abu Dhabi Public Libraries and Sharjah Public Libraries. The other two initiatives focus on a range of events and programmes for school students, a series of sessions and dialogues with a group of authors and other activities.

Sheikha Al Muhairi, Director of Public Libraries of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, said the government entity has launched “Let’s Read Together”, “Maktaba”, and a “Creative Reader” competition for the National Reading month. “We are so happy that this national initiative has been growing from strength to strength every year,” said Al Muhairi.

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Shaikha Al Muhairi, Director of Public Libraries – Abu Dhabi, Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi. Photo Clint Egbert/Gulf News

She added that The National Library and Archives will dedicate activities including the “ Reading Month Festival”, “Reading Marathon”, “Let’s Together”, and “Book “71”, in addition to organising a number of cultural lectures, the “Question from a Book” competition, “National Library and Archives Events”, “Emirati Children’s Day” and “Photo Exhibitions”.

Dania Droubi, chief operating officer of the Emirates Literature Foundation said the Foundation will spend the National Reading Month to present the Emirates Literature in Space programme, the Reading for Pleasure Project, the UAE Wikimedia User Group, as well as student sessions at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2022 (virtual edition), and the Reading Caravan, for its part to encourage reading.

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Dania Droubi, Chief Operating Officer and Head of Education Inititaives at Emirates Literature Foundation. Photo Clint Egbert/Gulf News

The Culture and Science Symposium will present a range of programmes and events including honouring the initiatives and clubs of reading in the country, launching the “Culture and Science Symposium Award for Arabic Poetry”, in addition to holding the activities of the Writing Salon for Reading in cooperation with Forum Salon via Zoom platform, and a number of other interactive activities.