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Regional reading challenge ‘brings life back to books’

11th grader Mohammad Al Shrouf to represent Jordan at regional level

By Renad Aljadid - Jun 24,2018 - Last updated at Jun 24,2018

Competitors pose for a group picture at the Arab Reading Challenge ceremony on Saturday (Photo courtesy of Education Ministry Facebook Page)

AMMAN — “Books might seem a pile of silent pages for most people, but to real readers, they are loyal friends who introduce them to various fields of knowledge and take them to new worlds,” 11th grader Mohammad Al Shrouf, Jordan’s champion of the Arab Reading Challenge (ARC) said on Sunday. 

The ARC, which takes place over the course of five levels; starting at school level and expanding regionally to the Arab world’s level in the UAE, has “brought life to books again “, with over 600,000 students across the Kingdom competing to represent Jordan, according to a ministry official.

The concluding ceremony on Saturday announced Shrouf as Jordan’s reading champion who will represent the country at the ARC in Dubai, accompanied by a Jordanian delegation comprised of the winners of the first 10 places.

“The students were required to read 50 books of their choice in various fields of knowledge including, but not limited to, literature, sciences, humanities and environment. They were then asked critical and analytical questions on the books they read by a judging committee,” Fawzy Al Khotaba, president of the cultural and environmental activities at the Education Ministry told The Jordan Times on Sunday.

“We [the Education Ministry] are responsible for the new pulse of change, so such initiatives strengthen students with education, knowledge, and culture, which build their personalities and sharpens their skills,” Khotaba said, stressing that “today’s student readers in the challenge are tomorrow’s leaders and thinkers”.

For the young champion, the competition was the beginning of a “new cultural life”, where he could “dive into new oceans of knowledge in fields like politics, psychology, geography, physics and literature”. 

“Reading is not a special gift or a talent, but a skill that anyone can acquire and enjoy,” Shrouf told The Jordan Times, adding that “no matter how much technology advances, a book will remain the best friend of humans at all times”. 

Shrouf believes that there is no one winner at the competition as all participants have won great experiences. “This is the third time I participate in the challenge and the experiences I gained from the previous years are what have eventually led me here.”

Mohammad’s father, Khalid Al Shrouf, voiced appreciation to the Military Culture Directorate, which he said has provided support and guidance to his son throughout the entire journey. 

Khotaba stressed the importance of the initiative, which also opened doors for participation to refugee students and others residing in the Kingdom.

“Some students read even more books than required as they are eager to learn and explore,” Khotaba noted, adding “the challenge made a paradigm shift in expanding the students’ horizons and bringing life again to books and libraries.”

He added that schools have also conducted several activities for the challenge which included hosting authors and thinkers who conducted discussion sessions with students where they could talk about some books with their own authors.

For Rahaf Zorba, a 10th grader and the third place winner at the national level, “books were my tickets to travel to different places around the world and explore new civilisations throughout the history.”

She voiced her thanks to the UAE vice president, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum for the ARC inittiave, hoping to see it implemented on an international level so as “to foster the sense of tolerance that reading teaches to students among various nations”.

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