ABU DHABI // Every child should have a library card and parents must teach by example to make books an everyday part of children’s lives, literacy experts say.
“We need to make reading a normal daily habit,” said Emad Abu Eid, head of Abu Dhabi Municipality’s public libraries. “In the West wherever you go, people read in front of or with their kids.
“It is part of their everyday life and we need to do the same in the UAE. Every home should have a family library. This is the core library, the family library.”
Parents need to set a better example for their children by picking up a book themselves, Mr Abu Eid said.
“In most of Arab society this doesn’t happen. If the parents pick up a book and start to read, it triggers an interest in the children.”
Wesam Musleh, library specialist at the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, agreed.
“Many parents say, ‘my children can’t read’ but how can they read when you sit down in front of the TV all the time?” he asked.
“We have to encourage reading in the home. Just have some place where children can read,” Mr Musleh said.
Shaikha Al Mehairi, cultural research centre manager at Abu Dhabi’s Tourism and Culture Authority, said parents needed to spark children’s interest in reading as early as possible.
“Quite often parents miss on their own development through reading and they miss the opportunity when their children are babies to introduce them to books, print and early literacy,” Ms Al Mehairi said. “Reading starts at home first.”
Eman Mohamed, programmes and award executive for the UAE Board on Books for Young People, said parents had a vital role to play to keep children engaged in reading.
“Children will always mimic their parents and so, if they see you reading for pleasure, they will also pick up a book and follow suit,” Ms Mohamed said.
“Parents should also ensure that kids have easy access to colourful and light-hearted children’s books, and that they are on hand in every room of the house so that they feel encourage to read as much as they can.”
Mr Abu Eid said that outside the home, parents should encourage their children to visit libraries often.
“It is my dream that every child in the UAE owns a library card,” he said. “The library card is a passport that allows you to travel through the books.
“Take your kids to the public library. Get a membership for them. It is a free of charge.”
Mr Musleh, a Jordanian father of three, said library workers should visit schools across the emirates and hold clinics where each pupil could register for a library card.
“It used to be their job to just organise books but nowadays the role has to be different,” he said. “You have to encourage people to read and use the library. “We have to make activities where we can distribute library cards in all schools.”
In December, President Sheikh Khalifa declared 2016 the Year of Reading. In September, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, launched the Arab Reading Challenge, which runs until April.
Source: art & life