In an effort to engage Arab children in reading more Arabic books, the UAE organises an annual Arab Reading Challenge, and this year, a record 21 million children are participating from across the region and beyond.

The challenge coincides with the UAE’s Month of Reading, which comes every March since 2017, and involves nation-wide reading-related activities, including book reading sessions with children and book signings with authors.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced via Twitter the record involvement of 21 million children in the 5th edition of the Challenge taking place this year.

96,000 schools from 52 countries are participating this year, marking a 55% increase in the level of participation since last year. “Witnessing students compete to read in the largest-ever Arab reading initiative fills me with pride,” the VP commented. 

Children between ages 8-18 are challenged to read and summarise 50 Arabic books - that are printed in a pamphlet by the organisers - and are then assessed over a number of qualifying stages, beginning at class level, then school level, then proceeding to the level of the educational district, directorate or governorate, and finalising with the selection of the top 10 students from each country before filtering down the national winners. 

The semi-finalists take part in further evaluations before competing for the grand prize - which, for the winning person, is Dh500,000 - in the final ceremony scheduled to take place in October in Dubai.

Past winners have ranged from a 9-year-old Emirati student to an Algerian-born boy living abroad.

Last year’s Challenge was televised into a reality TV show, documenting the semi-finalists journeys over the last few weeks of the Challenge.