UAE's Arab reading champion reads up to 5 hours a day

The challenge asks students to read as many books as possible in one academic year

KT Photo: Rahul Gajjar
KT Photo: Rahul Gajjar

Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Mon 4 Jul 2022, 1:46 PM

Last updated: Mon 4 Jul 2022, 7:36 PM

17-year-old Mohammed Ali Al Yamahi from Fujairah, who was announced the winner of the UAE competition of the sixth Arab Reading Challenge (ARC), a competition led by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI), reads up to 5 hours a day.

Mohammed Ali Al Yamahi faced stiff competition from over 350,000 students from 680 schools across the country. The event, held at the Higher Colleges of Technology in Dubai, was the first in two years to be held in-person.

Reading widely

The student who graduated 2 days ago from the Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Sharqi School in Fujairah read over 200 books from wherever he could. “I read a mix of genres,” he said. “I read from my school, local library, bookshops, and my own library. I even had some digital books on my phone. Of all the books I read, my favourite is one by His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi. It talks about how Sheikh Sultan was as a student and how he interacted with world leaders.”

The youngster who will now compete in the international stage of ARC later this year says he has a strategy to win. “I will meet people who have won before me to learn of their experience,” he said. “My target is to raise the flag of my country at the final event.”

Present at the event was Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology, who said she was delighted how the challenge has inspired students in the region to read.

“It continues to provide an element of growth within a child’s personality, an element of growth that education only provides one pillar for,” she said. “So I am really happy with the engagement.

"Public and private schools are completely on board with this entire journey. Lots of teachers are helping. Parents have made this a vital pillar of their own households. Most importantly, principals and leadership of the schools who have encouraged their students towards this very important challenge. It is not only for the challenge but also for the purpose of enrichment.”

Largest participation ever

This year’s Arab Reading Challenge was the largest in the history of the competition, with 22.5 million students from 44 countries participating.

Sarah Al Nuaimi, Director of MBRGI, said she was proud of how the ARC had gone ahead amid difficult times. “Despite the Covid-19 challenges, we have managed to reach these many people,” she said.

“Even during the pandemic, it didn’t stop students from wanting to be a part of this amazing competition. I think having the resources in all formats like digital or physical has given students the diversity and option to be able to read wherever they are.”

The competition also awarded the top school, where Al Nouf School for Girls from the Sharjah Educational Zone won the title of Distinguished School. The school’s principal, Sabiha Khalifa Dalmouk said consistent efforts from the school’s part helped increase the reading level of students.

“We combined several methods to get children to read,” she said, “When kids came back after distance learning, they were missing a lot of skills. We did activities to build these skills and encouraged students to read across all subjects, not just Arabic language.

"We also combined reading with smart learning, digital learning, and social media. Even during vacations, we used continuous learning methods to make sure children read. Students were also encouraged to summarize their stories using drawings and whatever medium they liked.”

The runner up of the event Muhammad Issa Al Hammadi, a grade 11 student from Al Adhwa School in Al Ain said that the experience of reading hundreds of books for the challenge was fantastic.

“If I had to give one advice to students, it would be to read,” he said. “There is so much to learn from reading. My three favourite books of all that I have read are Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, My Story by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and Chief Joseph Speaks by Chief Joseph”


He admitted that he was disappointed when he was not announced as the winner, but he will try harder next year.

The event also witnessed the honouring of Mona Shaheen Al Hammadi from the Khorfakkan Educational Zone with the title of Distinguished Supervisor.

ARC history

In was in 2015 that His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched the Arab Reading Challenge, the largest Arab project to encourage students in the Arab world to read. It aimed to get more than 1 million students to read 50 million books during their school year.

His Highness launched the initiative to boost reading and knowledge in the Arab world as part of the UAE’s efforts to help youth retain the Arabic language. Over the course of six editions, the challenge has witnessed a steady increase in the number of participants.

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