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Sunday, Jan 01, 2023 | Jamadi Al Thani 8, 1444
Published: Wed 9 Nov 2022, 7:19 PM
Last updated: Wed 9 Nov 2022, 8:01 PM
On Wednesday, 23 children from non-Arab countries put their best Arabic forward to try and make it to the finals for the Arab Reading Challenge’s Community Champions Award.
Only three made it to the final round, with the top community champion to be announced on Thursday during the closing ceremony of the sixth edition of the Arab Reading Challenge at Dubai Opera.
The finale will also see the ‘Best School’, ‘Outstanding Supervisor’ and the ‘Arab Reading Champion’ being announced.
When Khaleej Times asked the little champions about the books they’ve read, their faces lit up with pride. For many of them, getting access to Arabic books and reading in Arabic did not come easy, and yet they speak about their challenges with joy and determination.
The final qualification round was fittingly held at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library – the largest cultural centre in the Arab world.
“We are keen on including all Arab children in the Arab Reading Challenge, even if they do not live in Arab countries. We want to encourage them to preserve their mother tongue — and to use it,” said Sara Al Nuaimi, the director of Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives.
The sixth edition of the Arab Reading Challenge has witnessed the participation of 22.27 million reading enthusiasts from 44 countries. This is a 536% jump in the number of participants in comparison to its first edition.
Khaleej Times spoke to some of the children and their passion for Arabic and reading. Here’s what they had to say:
Nada Al Sattari, 13, Antwerpen Geel, Belgium (from Palestine)
“I followed the Arab Reading Challenge since the first season when a Palestinian contestant Afaf Raed, won the challenge. My mother encouraged me to take part and I was happy to get the chance to be part of it and to then be the top contestant from Belgium this year. I’ve loved reading from a very young age. My grandfather, Sulaiman Al Sattari, who is a poet and scholar, owns the largest library in Palestine.”
Sarah Adi, 15, Texas, US (from Syria)
“In the beginning, I used to cry whenever I saw any text in Arabic because the language just looked like symbols to me. My love for my origin and my identity made me put in the hard work to learn it, even though no one around me speaks Arabic. Even the Arab kids in my school speak English with each other, but my mother made sure that I studied Arabic and Islamic studies. I realise now that Arabic is a very rich language.”
Sana Aziz, 11, Wales, UK (from Iraq)
“It was a journey filled with challenges but today I’m proud to be the UK champion for the Arab Reading Challenge. My favourites are science books for children which I find exciting and interesting. My mother encouraged me to speak Arabic when I was young. I remember always telling her ‘I don’t speak Arabic’.”
Yousef Alawadhi, 16, Rome, Italy (from Kuwait)
“I’ve been living in Italy for four years, but before that I was in Kuwait where I went to English schools. When I came to Rome, I wanted to join an Arabic programme, and this is how I got to learn about the Arab Reading Challenge. I prefer reading non-fiction books like history, economics or politics. I’m not a fan of fiction because I feel that the purpose of reading is to gain knowledge that is useful.”
Moaz Abdelgawad, 9, Athens, Greece (from Egypt)
“This is my third participation in the Arab Reading Challenge. My parents taught me Arabic from a young age, I think it’s the most beautiful language. At home, I only speak Arabic. My favourites are science and religious books. I also enjoy reading children’s books, it takes me around one hour to read 20 pages.”
Habiba Mousa Eid, 9, Aukland, New Zealand (from Egypt)
“I love reading stories from all around the world. I started reading in Arabic and feel that I’ve improved a lot. I’m happy to be the New Zealand champ for the Arab Reading Challenge. I would love to be an Arabic teacher when I grow up.”
Sarah Ahmad, 18, Kingsör, Sweden (from Syria)
“Reading has transformed me. I took part in the last season, and I feel that in just one year, my personality and my mentality has really changed. Reading has made an impact on me, and on how I view the world and those around me. I would love to someday write books too, especially about the lives of Arab youth in the west.”
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