The Arab Reading Challenge (ARC) is perhaps the most prominent reading initiative in the Arab world, having tripled its targets in its first year. The competition, launched in 2015, aimed to encourage 1 million students, in the first to the 12th grades, collectively to read 50 million books. During the academic year 2015/16, motivated by taking part in the Arab Reading Challenge, more than 3.5 million students read more than 150 million books, instilling in them a lifetime habit of reading on a regular and continuous basis.
In the 2016/17 academic year, the second round of the Arab Reading Challenge reached 7 million students from 41,000 schools in 15 countries in the Arab world, who read 200 million books.
The main purpose of the Arab Reading Challenge, and other efforts to encourage reading in the Arab world, is to improve the people’s prospects by disseminating knowledge and promoting learning. Part of the initiative includes distributing large-scale special editions of the books 1001 Inventions: Muslim Heritage in our World and 1001 Inventions & Awesome Facts from Islamic Civilization, to families and young citizens.
Dubai Cares also expanded its incentives to include awards for Arabic book publishers as part of its efforts to promote the Arab publishing industry.
Not even poor eyesight has held back participants with the vision to complete the Arab Reading Challenge. Jana Mukarra Abu Kamil, a 12 year-old student at Raouf Abu Ghanem School in Lebanon, is almost blind, however this hasn’t stopped her from being one of the highest achieving children in her school. The seventh grader was being taught at a special needs rehabilitation centre when officials recognised her abilities and transferred her to a public school, along with her teacher Miss Jomanah, who is credited with nurturing Jana’s love for reading. Jana won first place at a governorate level, before taking third place in the national finals in Lebanon.
Three days after her admission to the Arab Reading Challenge, Kawthar Hamidani, a second-year baccalaureate student from Morocco, received the news that she had been diagnosed with leukaemia.
The news came down like a thunderbolt, but Kawthar, retaining her composure, focused on the competition and her lessons for the next day.
“I concluded that strong will and determination are what lead to success,” she said.
Exchanging titles with her classmates, Kawthar managed to read the required quota of books and ranked fifth in the national rounds of the ARC.