Reading is a fundamental value of the UAE and is a basic element required for acquiring knowledge, enhancing intellectual creativity, and building a society based on knowledge. As such, the UAE proclaimed 2016 as the Year of Reading and that same year issued a National Reading Law, to identify the key responsibilities of government agencies in the field and to ensure the sustainability of all government efforts to consolidate reading in the UAE.
The law outlines the following provisions:
* Enable reading in the community
* Imbed reading in the educational system
* Nurture a culture of reading in workspaces
* Ensure access to high quality libraries
* Support the publication and distribution of reading materials
* Activate the role of the media in promoting a culture of reading
* Establish a National Reading Fund
* Allocate a month for reading each year
* Develop a national reading plan
Reading Month in the UAE is March of every year, and that is when a lot of activities and programs to raise awareness about reading are implemented
Since the Law was issued, all organizations in the UAE have been working to implement its provisions. Below is a non-exhaustive list of the outcomes:
* Ministry of Education:
o In 2016, the Ministry amended the study schedules in public and private schools and allocated an optional reading session for students during which they can read any book of their choosing. This serves to encourage the habit of voluntary reading among students. Further, the Ministry included reading materials and activities in the school curricula.
o To ensure educational institutions have libraries that meet international standards, a guide was prepared and distributed among all schools and universities.
o To support educational facilities in developing an annual plan to encourage reading among students, a guide, including tools, mechanisms and guidelines, was developed and circulated among schools. In 2019, 620 schools in the country developed an annual reading plan.
o A plan was developed for the organization of workshops to share strategies for teaching and promoting reading among supervisors of learning resource centers and language teachers in public and private schools and universities. In 2019, the workshops were implemented for 204 participants in Abu Dhabi, 586 participants in Ajman and 159 participants in Ras Al Khaimah.
* Ministry of Health and Prevention:
o The Ministry developed a detailed plan to educate pregnant mothers and parents on the importance of reading to children from early childhood and carrying out activities to encourage reading when registering their children in schools. In this regard, 360 workshops were implemented in primary health care centers in 2017 and 2018 and 25 libraries were established in hospitals and centers.
* Ministry of Community Development:
o In 2018 the Ministry started developing a detailed plan for initiatives that recruit volunteers to read aloud for groups who are unable to read such as young children, the sick and the elderly. In this regard, the Ministry launched the Read to Me initiative that same year.
* Ministry of Economy:
o The Ministry developed a plan to dedicate reading corners and reading materials as a fixed feature in public facilities. In 2017 the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Culture and Youth collaborated with coffee shops to provide a range of reading materials available for customers.
* Federal Authority for Government Human Resources:
o The Authority developed a plan to enable and document specialized reading in the workplace for public sector employees.
* The Ministry of Culture and Youth and the National Media Council (now merged into the Ministry of Youth and Culture):
o The Ministry launched the Emirates Reading Club in all its public libraries.
o The Ministry has started carrying out evaluations of its libraries, and is working with relevant authorities to develop improvement plans for the public libraries.
o In 2018 the Ministry eliminated ISBN fees for all publishers to promote the development of the publishing sector.
o The National Media Council developed a media strategy to promote reading. This included working with prominent and influential figures to promote a culture of reading.
o The Council of Ministers adopts a ten-year national plan for reading, referred to as the "national plan for reading". Concerned government agencies have developed detailed annual plans to implement and monitor the initiatives of the Plan.
o As of 2019, the Ministry has become the custodian for implementation of the reading law, and the coordinator for Reading Month.
Below are statistics on the programs and events held during National Reading month from 2017-2019:
* In 2017 a total of 1,295 programs and events were hosted by schools, universities and federal and local government.
* In 2018, 2,782 programs and events were hosted by schools, universities, federal and local governments, the private sector and CSOs.
* In 2019, 8,208 programs and events were hosted by schools, universities, federal and local governments, the private sector and CSOs.
Since the National Reading Law was issued, government entities in the UAE have worked collaboratively to implement its provisions and strengthen the culture of reading among all groups of society, most notably children and students. These efforts have been gaining momentum each year and have been further bolstered by the initiatives of the private sector and civil society organizations.
The Ministry of Culture and Youth started an annual survey to measure the reading culture in the UAE and uses the results of that study to improve the reading programs and activities in the country. For example, in 2019, the Ministry found that it was important to adjust the messaging related to reading for children from one of usefulness and utility to one of enjoyment, therefore, the 2020 Reading Month slogan was the "Joy of Reading" to show children that reading can be an enjoyable voluntary activity. Unfortunately, COVID 19 had disrupted the Reading Month programs and activities for 2020.