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Ask teachers about the most difficult part of their job and you would hear them complain about the challenge of making children read these days.

The development of edutainment and technological tools for learning has made the teachers’s job a little more difficult as students spend far more time on mobile devices than with real books.

E-books, e-readers, mobile devices and the like should have expanded reading skills, but the effect has not been so, educators say.

Salwa El-Solh heads the English department at the Sharjah Education Zone. Her job is to make sure students at public schools in the emirate are developing their reading, writing and comprehension skills.

“I believe there is a lot of scope for improvement and vocabulary-building. Most teachers are putting in their best to make reading enjoyable but parents also play an important role and this needs to be realised,” says Salwa.

Nabil Butt, who heads the English department at Dubai Education Zone, says the time spent watching television or playing games could be used to read some books and improve language. “There is a lot of teacher-training needed to bring about a change and we already have a few initiatives in place,” says Nabil.

 

For thousands of students studying in public schools across the UAE, a new reading initiative by the British Council and HSBC will aim to create a new interest in reading. During the pilot phase of the project, two schools each from Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman will be given a set of story books and illustrative resources which will be used by teachers as part of the English classes. Teachers will also be trained as story-tellers to make the reading session enjoyable in the class.

For Kate Owen, director of the British Council, Dubai, the reading initiative is an effort to enhance English reading skills in kids.

“One of our main goals is to support the government in their educational programmes and through this initiative, we will be working with teachers and students to support the development of reading as a habit,” said Kate.

Ammar Shams, regional head of Corporate Sustainability at HSBC, the reading initiative is an effort to help students regionally.

“Education and children are an important part of our corporate social responsibility (CSR) and this is one of the several initiatives which will directly help in the development of learning,” said Shams.

Deena Abdulhadi was among the first few students to benefit from the initiative. Her class was invited to attend a special story-telling session at the school.

“I enjoy reading story books and listening to a story-teller was something very new for me. I enjoyed hearing the story from a real person and there was a lot of excitement in the class,” says Deena, a grade 5 pupil.

For her classmate, Nada Ibrahim, the story-telling session was similar to her teachers’ English class. “Sometimes our teachers also tell us stories in the class and it really makes learning so much fun,” said Nada.

The animated story-telling session by Alec Williams left a profound effect on the public school teachers who were also attending his session. With over 30 years’ experience working in libraries, Williams who works as a professional story-teller explained the essence of reading in his address to the teachers.

“Getting the children involved in the story is one of the best ways of making sure what you read is having an effect. The problem with many teachers is their choice of stories which make the reading and library class boring. One of the best ways to overcome the problem is by including a few stories just for fun and enjoyment,” said Alec.

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