Sharjah: Books are left on the shelf for far too long during the last few years of high school. said students at the 33 Sharjah International Book Fair.
With 40,000 students from schools across the country visiting the book fair in the last two days, Gulf News caught up with several students, teachers and publishers to discuss reading habits, trends and school reading activities.
While not everyone is a book worm, reading for pleasure continues to be a focus at every school. However, the general view among high school students at the fair was that factors such as extra curricular activities, exams and studying have affected their reading habit.
Indian student Aakaanksh S.M, who attends Grade 11 at Buds Public School in Dubai said while he loves books, his time for reading has been cut short because of school pressures. “I used to read a lot more when I was younger, but being in grade 11, school work and exams come first and reading is second.”
Aakaanksh explained that during the critical years of high school, a reading class is no longer a part of the curriculum and library visits are voluntary. “I try to read four to five books a month but I used to read a lot more,” he said.
Another student, Emirati Jenan Ahmad, attends grade 10 in a girl’s school in Sharjah. Jenan said she is no longer glued to her books at the weekend. “I definitely used to read a lot more during my free time a few years back, but studying now takes a lot longer and exams are much harder so reading has to wait.”
Meanwhile, the reading trend is reversed among primary and middle school students as reading for pleasure is given priority. Swarna Varma, an English teacher at Our Own English High School, said reading is strongly encouraged in classes through activities such as reading week. “We have a programme called ‘Read and lead’ where students from higher classes come and read to younger students.”
Another teacher, Nazeera Shafy from the Buds Public School in Dubai, said reading in school is made compulsory for students and is integrated into the curriculum by allocating library time during creative writing classes. “Students are strongly encouraged to read and are also assessed on their reading, which makes them visit the library a lot more. Each classroom also has a book corner,” said Shafy.
Fifth grade pupil at the same school, Karichelvan Kennedy, said he has read eight books in the last few months, with his favourite being ‘Arabian Nights.’ “I love to read after school and my favourite books are science books,” said Kennedy.
Reading has also taken precedence among kindergarten and primary school pupils, said publishers of Arabic and English children’s books.
Mohammad Kubeiah, publisher of Home Applied books publishing house based in Lebanon, said that English children’s books that include pictures in different textures, 3D puppets, and sound sell fast. “Both parents and teachers focus on buying books for their children between the ages of zero to five that have a lot of tools for learning,” said Kubeiah.
Naheel Al Shawa, publisher of Noon Books publishing house based in Jordan, told Gulf News that books teaching children principles and values are also very popular. “I believe that the more you read, the more God will give you. I believe this since the first word god said to the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is ‘read’,” said Naheel.
With five more days to go, the book fair is expected to see a higher number of students and visitors. Visits from girls’ schools are scheduled on Sunday and Tuesday from 10am-2pm, while visits from boys’ schools are scheduled on Monday and Wednesday at the same time.