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Latifa bint Mohammed attends the Emirates Literature Foundation’s inaugural ‘Reading for Pleasure’ conference

Mon 20 May 2024    
The Brew News Team | 4 min read

Dubai: H.H. Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), participated in the inaugural ‘Reading for Pleasure’ conference organized by the Emirates Literature Foundation, marking its regional debut. Isobel Abulhoul OBE, Founder, Adviser, and Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation, delivered the opening keynote address.

The conference included a panel discussion titled ‘Global Focus on Reading for Pleasure,’ featuring Debbie Thomas, a prominent UK lecturer on Reading for Pleasure; Dr. Loh Chin Ee, Deputy Head of Research at the English Language and Literature Academic Group, National Institute of Education, Singapore; and Prof. Hanada Taha-Thomure, the endowed Chair Professor of Arabic Language at Zayed University.

With over 50 local and international experts, the two-day event delved into the transformative power of reading, emphasizing the pivotal roles of home and school environments, parents, educators, academics, researchers, and the scientific community in nurturing a passion for reading. This aligns with the objectives of Dubai Social Agenda 33, envisioned by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, promoting cohesive, tolerant, and contented families and an educational framework that enhances human capital.

Isobel Abulhoul OBE stated: “The Reading for Pleasure conference is not only relevant to our current times but also addresses an urgent need to ensure the success of future generations. We are incredibly fortunate to have these eminent speakers among us, and we are deeply grateful to our many partners and supporters, without whom this event and the wider Reading for Pleasure project would not be possible. All sessions are being recorded and will be available for parents, teachers, and librarians. If there’s one key takeaway from this conference, it is that we must work together to encourage children to cherish books and find joy in reading.”

Also read: Latifa bint Mohammed unveils Expo 2020 Dubai Museum

Conference speakers:

The program features discussions with international figures including Bassem Saad, CEO of Queen Rania Foundation; Dr. Charles Hulme, Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Education at the University of Oxford; Debbie Thomas, one of three UK-based lecturers specializing in Reading for Pleasure; Dima Zeidan, Arabic Solutions Manager at Cambridge University Press & Assessment; Prof. Kevin Paterson, Head of the School of Psychology and Vision Sciences at the University of Leicester; Dr. Loh Chin Ee, Deputy Head of Research at the English Language and Literature Academic Group, National Institute of Education, Singapore; Maha Zaki, Senior Specialist at the Children’s Section of Alexandra Bibliotheque; Nikki Gamble, Founder and Director of Just Imagine; Dr. Rana Dajani, Professor of Molecular Cell Biology and Founder of We Love Reading; Sandy Qarmout, Project Manager at Queen Rania Foundation; and Dr. Saussan Khalil, Senior Teaching Associate in Arabic at the Faculty of Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge, UK.

Notable speakers from the UAE included His Excellency Sultan Al Neyadi, Astronaut and UAE Minister of State for Youth; Dr. Saeed Mubarak bin Kharbash, CEO of Arts & Literature Sector, Dubai Culture and Arts Authority; Dr. Rafia Ghobash, Psychiatrist and Founder of The Women’s Museum; Dr. Nadia Taysir Dabbagh, Head of Department at the Mental Health Centre of Excellence, Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital; Dr. Reem Al Gurg, Director of Strategy and Institutional Excellence, Mohammed Bin Rashid University; Maryam Ali Al Falahi, Adviser at the General Secretariat of The Executive Council, Government of Dubai; and Ibrahim Albaloshi, Director of Sustainability and Partnership at Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, offering insights from a regional and Arabic perspective on Reading for Pleasure.

Additionally, educational institutions were represented by experts like Anita Stewart, School Principal at Dubai Schools – Barsha; Dr. Antje von Suchodoletz, Associate Professor of Psychology at NYU Abu Dhabi; Daad El Yafi, Head of English at Al Mawakeb Schools; Eli Ghazel, Academic Programs Director at 21st Century Academic Forum; Dr. Farah Sarraj, Chief Corporate Officer at Al Futtaim School Management Company; Fatma Belrehif, CEO of Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau; Dr. Kristine Stewart, Associate Professor and Literacy Coordinator at Zayed University; Dr. Maryam AlJassmi, Professor at the Department of Cognitive Sciences, UAE University; Ola El Khatib, Teacher and Wellbeing Coach; and Ruba Awwad and Dr. Sarah Benson, Associate Professor and Programme Lead for Inclusion and Special Education Needs.

Moreover, industry representatives included Yuser AlAbbychi, COO and Creative Director at Al HudHud Publishing, along with authors like Dr. Ahmed Sultan Al Shoaibi, Doudja Benfredj, Ebtisam Al-Beiti, Eman Al Yousuf, Hamda Al Buloushi, Helen Farmer, Jessica Smith, and Nahla al Malki.

Librarians from leading schools also contributed, including Alan Jacques from GEMS World Academy; Jumana Hanoun from Al Kamal American International School; Mary Rose Grieve from Hartland International School; Saeed Khaled from Ibn Khuldoon National School; and Tracy Ammoury from Dubai English Speaking School.

Furthermore, student representation included Abdullah Alameemi, Alyazia Al Murri, Fatima Aldarwish, Karim Labib, Mir Faraz, Shaista Stanikzai, Suhail Kahoor, and Nourah Al Naqbi.

Comprehensive Plan:

Alongside the array of lectures, panel discussions, and workshops featuring industry experts, attendees also had ample networking opportunities.

In May 2023, the Emirates Literature Foundation and DP World established a memorandum of understanding, outlining a comprehensive plan for a pilot initiative aimed at promoting reading enjoyment in both Arabic and English. This initiative encompasses a five-year program targeting six primary schools in Dubai, with the aim of establishing centers of excellence that can be expanded in the future.

The Foundation’s strategy involves collaborating with schools to cultivate inviting, engaging, and dynamic libraries, supporting the establishment of in-classroom libraries, allocating time daily for reading sessions in both Arabic and English, offering a diverse selection of books, developing detailed book lists and guidelines to aid librarians in selecting culturally relevant materials, actively involving parents through dedicated feedback sessions, assisting teachers with targeted professional development, and nurturing a passion for reading among children through author visits, book fair outings, cross-curricular activities, and theatrical productions.

Supporting Institutions:

Research conducted by Zayed University, UAE University, University of Birmingham, and University of Cambridge underpins the initiative.

In 2024, strategic support was provided by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Global Initiatives and Arab Reading Challenge, while Al HudHud and Penguin Random House contributed book donations to advance the initiative. Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences served as the venue partner for the Reading for Pleasure conference.

For more details: Reading For Pleasure, Emirates Literature Foundation

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