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22 June 2024

Latifa bint Mohammed attends inaugural ‘Reading for Pleasure’ conference organised by Emirates Literature Foundation

Published
By E247

Conclave aligns with the Dubai Social Agenda 33 envisioned by Mohammed Bin Rashid to promote a vibrant society and an education system focused on enriching human capital

Two-day event, held for first time in the region, attracts more than 50 experts from around the world to highlight the profound transformation a reading habit can bring in lives


Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) attended the ‘Reading for Pleasure’ conference, which was organised for the first time in the region by the Emirates Literature Foundation. The conference opened with a keynote speech by Isobel Abulhoul OBE, Founder, Adviser and Trustee, Emirates Literature Foundation. The inaugural event also witnessed a panel discussion on the ‘Global Focus on Reading for Pleasure’ with Debbie Thomas, one of three lecturers for Reading for Pleasure in the UK; 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, Zayed University.

The two-day conference, which hosted more than 50 local and international experts, aimed to explore the profound impact reading can have on lives, with a particular focus on the critical roles that home and school environments, parents, educators, academics, researchers, and the scientific community play in fostering a love for reading. This aligns with the stated goals of the Dubai Social Agenda 33 envisioned by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum to promote close-knit, tolerant, and happy families and an education system that serves to enrich human capital.

Isobel Abulhoul OBE said: “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.”

Conference programme and speakers
The programme includes conversations with international experts Bassem Saad, CEO, Queen Rania Foundation; Dr Charles Hulme, Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Education, University of Oxford; Debbie Thomas, one of three lecturers for Reading for Pleasure in the UK; Dima Zeidan, Arabic Solutions Manager, Cambridge University Press & Assessment; Prof Kevin Paterson, Head of the School of Psychology and Vision Sciences, 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 – Children’s Section Alexandra Bibliotheque; Nikki Gamble, Founder and Director, Just Imagine; Dr Rana Dajani, Professor of Molecular Cell Biology and Founder of We Love Reading; Sandy Qarmout, Project Manager, Queen Rania Foundation and Dr Saussan Khalil, Senior Teaching Associate in Arabic at the Faculty of Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge UK.  

Prominent speakers from the UAE included His Excellency Sultan Al Neyadi, Astronaut and UAE Minister of State for Youth; Dr Saeed Mubarak bin Kharbash, Chief Executive Officer 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 Speciality Hospital; Dr Reem Al Gurg, Director of Strategy and Institutional Excellence, Mohammed Bin Rashid University; Maryam Ali Al Falahi, Adviser, General Secretariat of The Executive Council, Government of Dubai; and Ibrahim Albaloshi, Director of Sustainability and Partnership, Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, who shared a regional and Arabic-led perspective on Reading for Pleasure.

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

Prominent participants from the publishing industry included Yuser AlAbbychi, COO and Creative Director, Al HudHud Publishing; authors such as 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 participated, including Alan Jacques, Head Librarian, GEMS World Academy; Jumana Hanoun, Librarian, Al Kamal American International School; Mary Rose Grieve, School Librarian, Hartland International School; Saeed Khaled, Library Coordinator, Ibn Khuldoon National School; Tracy Ammoury, Librarian, Dubai English Speaking School.

Students were also well represented among the participants. They included Abdullah Alameemi; Alyazia Al Murri; Fatima Aldarwish; Karim Labib; Mir Faraz; Shaista Stanikzai; Suhail Kahoor and Nourah Al Naqbi.

Comprehensive plan
In addition to lectures, panel discussions and workshops with industry experts, there were numerous networking opportunities for the attendees.

Emirates Literature Foundation and DP World had in May 2023 signed a memorandum of understanding with a comprehensive plan for a pilot scheme encouraging reading for pleasure in both Arabic and English. The Foundation developed a five-year programme with six primary level schools within Dubai to create centres of excellence that can be scaled up in the future.

The plan by the Foundation includes working with schools to enhance and create libraries that are inviting, fun, educational and dynamic, supporting the development of in-classroom libraries and scheduling time each day for the class to be read to in both Arabic and English, providing an extensive range of books in both Arabic and English, developing comprehensive book lists and guidelines to give structure for librarians to select culturally appropriate books on a variety of books that appeal to children’s tastes, actively engaging with parents via dedicated feedback and education sessions, supporting teachers with focused professional development and feedback sessions, fostering a love of reading and books for children by scheduling author visits, trips to book fairs, cross-curricular activities and plays.

Supporting institutions
The initiative is supported with research by Zayed University, UAE University, University of Birmingham and University of Cambridge.

In 2024, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Global Initiatives and Arab Reading Challenge came onboard with strategic support, and Al HudHud and Penguin Random House made donations of books to propel the next stage of the initiative. The venue partner for the Reading for Pleasure conference was Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

For more details about the initiative, please visit the link: https://readingforpleasure.ae/ and the link: https://event.elfdubai.org/ReadingForPleasure offers more details about the event.