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Inculcate the habit of reading
December 12, 2016
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Arshiah Parween gets an insight into the importance of encouraging children to read from a few attendees of the Knowledge Summit 2016 held in Dubai

At the recently concluded Knowledge Summit 2016, which ran from Dec 5 to 7, I attended a session titled, “The future of Reading in the Arab World.”

When one of the speakers emphasised the role of mothers and families to help children read, I decided to explore this point further.

During the tea break, on a very busy Summit day, I managed to talk to some of the female attendees on what they think is the best way to encourage children to read.

Here is what they said: 

Dr Carol Melhem-Moufarrej, Associate Dean of the Mohammed Bin Rashid School for Communication, American University in Dubai, believes that children should be encouraged to read from a very young age. 

Dr Carol said, “We should buy books for them that are appealing and are suitable for their age and read them every night. The books should be fun to read so they can enjoy. Also I believe in structuring their daily events. The TV should not be switched on the entire afternoon when they come back from school. If there is no television, they are enticed to go read. But if there is TV, that’s the first thing they will run to!”

“We can make a strict timetable regarding when they should read. We need to start such a tradition,” Carol concluded.

Reem Husain, who worked as a coordinator for Unesco at the American International School, also attended. She has also been a Counselor for Students’ Affairs at Al-Ittihad School and supervised and monitored her students’ participation in the Arab Reading Challenge.

Reem said, “Reading is like a seed that you need to plant and take care of it to let it grow and become a fruitful tree. We can encourage children to read by taking them regularly to the library, not forcing them to pick a certain book, making available a variety of books like picture books, comics or stories to give kids many options and creating a quiet atmosphere for reading for 10 to 15 minutes each day.

She further emphasised on the connection between reading and a healthy lifestyle. She said, “A healthy mind (developed through reading) is a healthy body.”

These days, Reem, through her initiative (knights of happiness), visits specialised centres for special needs with a group of volunteers. She supports them with purposeful activities such as reading a story and singing with the writer, writing a story and dedicating it to a friend, among others.

Dr Petruta Tatulescu, Management Consultant and former university professor, based in Germany, was also at the event.  She said that children can be encouraged to read through example. “If they see you are having fun reading, then they will think they can have fun reading as well. And then you can also start a dialogue with them on the topics you read,” Petruta said.

She further added, “The initiative of women reading with their children in schools is also very beneficent. I noticed quite often in my teaching experience that it is beneficial if you combine a bunch of different senses. If you give children pictures and videos along with text, it makes reading fun.”

Reading is not just essential for academic and professional successes, but in the larger context is crucial for the progress of mankind. Therefore, it is a must that children read and that they are encouraged to do so in all ways possible by parents and teachers and the government alike.

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