Guests, during an Arab Reading Challenge, award ceremony held at the Dubai Opera House. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: The pan-Arab reading competition was launched by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai in 2015 and is the largest initiative of its kind in the region. The winner of each edition is awarded a cash prize worth Dh1 million.

Shaikh Mohammad launched the Arab Reading Challenge as part of the efforts of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives foundation in 2015 to encourage one million students to read 50 million books in one year. The results exceeded all expectations, with more than 3.5 million students reading 150 million books in a year. The Arab Reading Challenge 2018 saw a total of 10.5 million students from 44 countries and 52,000 schools in the Arab region and worldwide.

There was a 25 per cent increase in the number of participants compared to 2017 — after the competition opened its doors to Arab students residing outside the Arab world.

The challenge seeks to raise awareness of the importance of reading among Arab students in the Arab region and worldwide, enhance their level of education, and help them develop self-learning and self-expression skills as well as critical and creative thinking. The mission of the competition is to boost the ability of the members of the young Arab generation to build a prosperous future for themselves and their countries. Participants are required to read 50 books during the academic year and summarise their highlights, compete for cash prizes with a total value of Dh11 million (approximately US$3 million).

The Challenge includes several elimination stages. Students start competing at class level, then school level, proceeding to the level of the educational district, directorate or governorate, leading to the selection of the national winner.

Last year, over 300,000 students in the UAE alone, completed reading 50 books as part of the competition. The top 10 candidates from each emirate were also awarded medals and trophies in a previous award ceremony held earlier in October, 2017.

Participants from 41,000 schools collectively read over 200 million books in the event’s second edition.

The 2017 first place winner, 17-year-old Afaf Sharif, from Palestine beat 7.4 million contestants to win the title as the champion of the Arab Reading Challenge.

She took home $150,000 prize (Dh550,500), while the winning school was awarded $1 million (Dh3.67 million). As much as $100,000 was distributed to the principal, $100,000 to the outstanding supervisor who urged the students to participate in the challenge and the remaining $800,000 to the school.

Prizes were also given to the top ten students, supervisors and competing teams.