by Rana Asfour
Although a man with an extremely busy schedule, HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has taken it upon himself to get most Arab children, well a million of them to be exact, to read 50 books each.
The Arab Reading Challenge which was announced in September of last year by HH through his Twitter account, pledges more than US$3 million (Dh11m) in rewards for teachers, pupils and their families – and $1m for the top school.
Only yesterday, HH took to Twitter again to ask the public for its opinion on how best to get children and the community reading (check out #ReadingYear). One answer that stood out for me and was one of those reported by the UAE’s National newspaper this morning, was KDSL Kevin Simpson’s announcement that, come March, the successful ‘Real Men Read’ campaign is to launch in Dubai. The campaign relies on a community effort to encourage children – mainly boys – to pick up books and read for enjoyment.
According to their website, KDSL (Know.Do.Serve.Learn) is a UAE-based education company focused on providing professional development to American curriculum educators in the MENA region. It was founded by Kevin Simpson and Alison Burrows who bring more than twenty five years of combined experience in the fields of education and training.
The ‘Real Men Read’ is a fantastic program created by Minnesota library media specialist at Spring Lake Park High School, Tori Jensen. Its aim was to create posters featuring male teachers, librarians, and administrators posing with their favourite book, magazine or newspaper. The message was clear: ‘real men are readers and proud of it too!’ The program has since then been hugely successful adopted by various high schools across the US.
In a great article published by educationworld.com entitled ‘Male Teachers Show That Real Men Read’, it is quite evident why such a program has found an appeal with both educators and young students –particularly boys. Jensen, a ‘reluctant reader’ as a child has ‘always been interested in getting reluctant readers to read – especially boys’, she says.
‘Among the factors that discourage boys from reading as they get older’, Jensen said, ‘is that they don’t perceive reading as a male activity -- since most of the people urging them to read are women. Also, many boys prefer reading non-fiction works, which rarely are assigned in class, so they don’t see that as real reading’, she added.
Other factors she lists include situations whereby educators often look down upon topics that are favoured by boys such as sports, horror, comics, graphic novels and non-fiction.
It will be interesting to monitor what Dubai’s based KDSL has in mind for their March launch and whether they plan to implement the program for Arabic as well as English speaking students.