Rewarding bookworms

Mai Samih , Tuesday 26 Oct 2021

Forty out of 3.5 million participants in the first round of a reading contest were awarded LE20 million in prize money, Mai Samih reports

Rewarding bookworms
Rewarding bookworms

The National Reading Project (NRP) is designed to encourage reading among youth nationwide. Competitions are held for students in schools and universities as well as their teachers. NRP is organised by the ministries of education, higher education, culture, social solidarity, youth and sports, Al-Azhar, and the Scientific Research Foundation (SRF), an Egyptian-Emirati educational organisation that aims at culturally developing youth through creative pedagogical methods.

Each contestant reads 30 books in Arabic in various fields and summarises them on the project’s website.

The SRF launched the NRP in 2020 as a sustainable project for 10 years and based on four tournaments: reading for Egyptian students for the title of “Intellectual Student”; reading for university students to become “The Diamond Reader”; reading for teachers for “Intellectual Teacher”; and a competition for community institutions to be awarded the title “An Institution of Enlightenment”.

Those winning the first and second places in each category will receive a prize of LE1.5 million. Other prizes range from LE100,000 to LE250,000. There are also visits to famous libraries in the world.

AshraqatGamal, a student at BaniMazar School in Minya, won first prize in the “Intellectual Student” category.

Gamal said there was an introductory session at the school about the project open to all students interested in reading to understand the rules for participating and how to choose books and summarise them. The contest encouraged Gamal to start a book club at her village with 35 participants. “Through the project I acquired the skills of public speaking, discussing books in a simple way as well as summarising books in a few sentences. The latter is a skill that I did not have from the beginning,” she said.

Gamallearned her reading skills at the workshops she attended. Her close friends backed her participation. “To be honest, before I became part of the project, reading was not my hobby.I would only read my schoolbooks.” However, Gamalsaid she exerted more effort in each task she was given during the preparatory sessions. She said the NRP preparatory programmewas divided into two phases,reading and summarising, and discussion. Each phase was composed of 12 workshops.

“The project aims at creating a generation aware of the importance of reading and being able to tolerate other cultures,” SRF head of educational projects and NRP Deputy Secretary-General HeshamSengari said.

“This will not happen unless they can read, are able to choose what they read, and are able to criticise it and be creative,” Sengari said.

Mohamed Taha, a student at the faculty of medicine in Cairo University, won first place in the category of Diamond Reader andAhmed Elwan won first prize in the category of Intellectual Teacher.

“Through ambitious projects such as the NRP, we are succeeding together in developing and enriching the knowledge capabilities of students and teachers to create a creative generation that is proud of its origins and passionate about the Arabic language,” Minister of Education TarekShawki said during the celebrations launching the second round of the contest.

Such a project was long awaited, senior advisor to theMinistry of Higher Education’s Fund of Technical and Technological SupportAhmed Salem told Al-Ahram Weekly.Salem encouraged the use of games to teach children effective reading skills. Moreover, he said, “to make sure that children read more books,the content in libraries should be suitable for each age group in terms of the language used because in some cases it is too difficult for them to read.”

Rania Samir, an expert in education, also found the initiative interesting. “Reading is a habit that should start from a very young age,” said Samir who foundedDoozieKid which aims at encouraging children to read more, have less screen timeand become entrepreneurs. “If parents want their children to read more, they should be role models,” Samir said. Parents could also read to their children or tell them bedtime stories, she added. Children could be given pop-up story books to learn from, she suggested, adding that parents could also set up a reading corner for their children and give them treats whenever they finish reading a book.


*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 October, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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