DUBAI - It took a really spoilt little princess who wanted two birthdays and a delightful elephant called Elma to pull 11-year-old Emirati national Reem Foudi’s attention towards the habit of reading.
Foudi and her friends were among the eighty children who partook in the Kids Read event organised by the British Council on Saturday, May 12. Celebrating World Book Day, the event attracted children and parents of many nationalities at the Pavillion, Downtown Dubai. The storytelling afternoon hosted children in the age group of 6-11 and the interactive session offered workshops for parents and teachers on how to encourage their little ones into the habit of reading.
Recognising the sharp disinterest shown among children towards the reading habit as a serious issue, Jancis Mcgrady, the English Project Manager of the British Council, said that the free project is being done in collaboration with HSBC in the Middle East, Levant and Pakistan regions. Working together with the ministries of education, the project aims to reach out to more than 25,000 children across 13 countries in the MENA region.
Apart from the story-telling, the programme also organised arts and crafts activities for the kids. “Parents need to read to their kids at a very young age. There are a variety of things that parents can do to encourage reading among children, the most important one being that parents make books available to their children. Parents must also try and avoid questioning them about the books they read like how it’s done in school. Kids must understand that reading can be a fun habit,” said Mcgrady. Indian national and 11-year-old Manika Parashar said: “I enjoy reading, the books here were really good. I read books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the Princess Diaries. We have a lot of activities at school that encourage the reading habit.”
Sri Lankan national Nirosha Serasingha said: “My daughter is eight years old and she does not read. She’s more interested in computer games and watching TV. The event was really helpful because she seems to be showing some interest with books now.”
Six-year-old New Zealander Vincent Marinus loves reading pirate books because they are really scary. His mother Kelly Marinus said: “The event is a little too noisy to be honest, but it’s a great place for beginners. We read to Vincent at home and he likes being read to.”
Mcgrady also added that parents and teachers can do a lot more to encourage reading among children by incorporating technology as a positive tool to encourage reading. “We cannot stop kids from using technology; it’s a huge part of kids growing up their lives now. Parents can find several softwares and applications that encourage reading online.” She advised that teachers can integrate stories into their school’s curriculum which will make children interested in books outside their textbooks.