Sultan Al Mazroui Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Sultan Al Mazroui began his journey with the written word at the age of three. After recently being named the UAE winner of Arab Reading Challenge, Sultan reminisces of the days his passion for reading began to flourish.

The 11-year-old boy studying in Ajyal International School in Abu Dhabi, who will go on to represent the UAE in the regional finals of the 5th edition of the Arab Reading Challenge that will crown the winner out of 21 million participating students from 51 countries around the world, is very excited.

With an eloquence beyond his years, Al Mazroui shares, “My mother used to read me bedtime stories every night. I would eagerly wait for those moments. One day I asked her where she got all those stories from, that’s where my journey with books began.”

“I have read over 300 books this year. Their topics range from philosophy to politics to medical books to sports to novels and much more. I prefer reading paper books, and I use my electronic devices simultaneously to search the meaning of the new vocabulary that I come across, or learn more about a topic to broaden my knowledge.”

Completing that many books throughout the year came with a lot of discipline. “Sometimes I can read three to four books a day if they’re around 200 pages. It takes me about three hours per book. If the book is longer it could take about two days. I have a very detailed schedule of my reading time, my leisure time, my family time and my time with friends.”

Runs in the family

The passion that young Sultan has for reading is shared by his entire family. Both his parents and his twin sister Shahad are avid readers as well. “We are a family that loves to read. We have a large library in our home and we spend eight to 12 hours of our day reading. I often share books with my parents and they encourage me to explore many different topics. Whenever we have family members over, we love to discuss what we have been reading. Once a week we would all read the same book and when we meet, we share our thoughts on the content and the language of the books. Books are the nourishment of the mind.”

With a passionate family that encourages reading, Sultan has managed to achieve great strides in the reading competition. He also attributes his success to his role model, “My source of inspiration is His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE, and Ruler of Dubai. His support is not only for our country, but also for the people. He is a major supporter of this challenge, and he gave us the positivity and motivation to read and become better people. His advice and guidance reach all segments of the UAE society, and the Arab world generally. When he saw that the Arab world is going through a ‘reading crisis’, he launched a competition to encourage all of us to come together and keep the Arabic language – the language of the Quran – alive.”

What parents say

Sultan’s father, Salem Al Mazroui describes the importance of instilling a love for reading within the hearts of the young children. “As parents we need to provide encouragement, when we involve the children in something we love to do, it becomes something we share together as a family. As parents, we have to be observant of our children’s passion and help them nourish that through encouragement and motivation.”

Sultan echoes his father’s sentiment, “One of the first things my family did was help me fall in love with reading. They first made sure I loved reading and then encouraged me to pursue it. They taught me to find a friend within my books and that’s how my love for reading grew.”

Shahad Al Mazroui, Sultan’s twin sister was also a contestant at the Arab Reading Challenge and managed to come third in the UAE. The competition between her and Sultan was very healthy. He says, “We love to read together and she’s my strongest competitor. I’m jealous however, that she is three minutes older than me!”

Sultan’s message

With great articulation and a vast vocabulary, Sultan shares his advice to prospective young readers, “Allow yourself to try reading, and you will fall in love with it. Reading is a way of life. Reading is your weapon when facing challenges. I personally believe I am acquiring an endless pool of knowledge through my readings.”