Free books for school students at Book Here Oasis Mall Branch
Free books for school students at Book Here Oasis Mall Branch Image Credit: Supplied

As UAE students return to school this week, a Dubai-based bookstore is coming to the aid of parents who are finding it hard to budget in the cost of books.

Book Hero is providing four free books to every student, who walks in to the store with a student identification proof, at their branch in Oasis Mall on Shaikh Zayed Road, in Dubai.

Montserrat Martin, the co-founder of Book Hero spoke to Gulf News about the initiative that aims to promote the right to education for everyone. She said: "Education should be affordable for everyone, so we are helping out parents who might be struggling due to job losses or facing other financial issues, especially if they have more than one child at school."

Book Hero was a concept bookshop that was born from a passion for promoting reading at an affordable cost. The store was co-founded by Martin, with Mohammed Al Qubaisi, an Emirati book lover, in 2016 at Sports City.

Now, at all Book Hero stores across Dubai and Abu Dhabi, second-hand books are sold at the cost of Dh10 or Dh20 and the sales then support a trap, neuter, release (TNR) programme run by an organisation that rescues stray and abandoned animals.

How does it work?

"We have been running a book exchange programme for some years now, where parents and students bring used books to exchange for other books they need. Sometimes they bring, say, 10 books but take only three or four in exchange.

"We also visit book distributors who may have old books that are not being purchased. We collect them and keep them at our Oasis Mall branch.

"The process is simple. People need to come with some sort of student accreditation. We allow every student to choose four books that they think will help for their school year," the Spanish national said.

According to Martin, the campaign is not just for UAE students. "We have also helped overseas students, sometimes they may be staying in the UAE, but are enrolled in a school outside the country. Or parents are in the UAE and the students outside the country. Last week we helped nearly 800 students studying outside of the UAE, many of them in India."

And it's not just old text books that the students can choose from. "They can pick other books like guides, research books and more, available for the campaign. These books may not be in their syllabus, but students can take them if they feel it will help them at school," Martin added.

The books accepted at the store are only educational as Martin said the campaign aims to help school and university students from across the UAE.

“Students from different backgrounds, nationalities and people from across the UAE come to us to get these books,” she said.

Martin said that she often gets questions about why she is running these campaigns. "We are just trying to create equal opportunities for everyone. Helping should be a part of our everyday lives. It should not be something we do once in a while. We make no profit at these stores, we have to pay the rent, but we are trying to help people in every way we can,” said Martin, who has been living in the UAE for over 20 years.

Book Hero also takes preventative measures for COVID-19. The books are taken to a warehouse, sanitised and kept aside for days before being brought back to the store.

The Book Hero store that holds book swaps daily from 10am to 8pm can be found at Oasis Mall, Dubai, in basement number one. “No books that are damaged or scribbled on are accepted at the store,” according to Martin.