Education Key Factor in Year of Reading

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Schools Programme for Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2016 Confirmed

Dubai, 22 February, 2016: 2016 has been declared the Year of Reading and across the UAE many new initiatives have begun to encourage children and teenagers to enjoy reading. Fostering a love of reading has always been one of the key aims of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, which will be held from 1-12 March this year with an extensive line-up of events designed to inspire younger audiences to pick up a book and engage with the written word.

The Festival’s strong education-focused programme means that students and youngsters in the UAE and the Gulf region have the unique opportunity to meet their favourite authors during the ever popular free Education Days and the brand new Student Sessions. These will be held at the home of the Festival, the InterContinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City as well as in more than 100 locations across the UAE. The aim is to allow as many students as possible to enjoy a literary experience and be inspired to read.

Speaking about the sessions, Isobel Abulhoul, CEO of Emirates Literature Foundation and Festival Director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature said, ‘Our annual Education programme for schools and students has been our way of increasing literacy and the reading habit in the country. In the Year of Reading, our efforts feel especially relevant. The Education Days, including the Student Sessions and the school visits by authors are an integral part of our programme as we offer students from all over the country the chance to meet the creators of their favourite stories.

‘I think the inspiration that comes from meeting an author will encourage any young person to take up reading and hopefully, writing as well. Since our target audience isn’t just the book lovers in the region, we intend for these sessions to impact on the non-readers too. This may be the trigger to make students pick up that one book; and that one book could very well be the key to discovering that reading us a pleasurable activity.’

This year will see astronaut Chris Hadfield, Gulf heavyweights Hatoon Al Fassi, Ahlam Bsharat and Khalid Al Ameri, historian Antony Beevor, bestselling children’s authors Jacqueline Wilson, Gill Lewis, Darren Shan, Sahar Naja Mahfouz, Maitha Al Khayat, Shaima Al Marzooqi and AF Harrold, young adult novelists Fatima Sharafeddine and Garth Nix participating in the exclusive Education Day sessions alongside their main programme sessions. They will be joined by many more writers who all see the value in meeting young people and giving them new perspectives on the world.

Chris Hadfield 2

Many students will be attending the ‘An Illustrators’ World’ panel with Chris Haughton, Petr Horacek, David Melling, Shihab Al Deen Musharaf and Lauren Child. Also, The Kumars at No. 42 star Meera Syal who has played Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, will join forces with My Family actor Robert Lindsay to discuss the part Shakespeare has played in their lives.

In addition to these, students can also enjoy Shakespeare screenings and talks by expert Fiona Lindsay, brought to the Festival by Digital Theatre.

The Festival will also be hosting Poetry Live! GCSE Poetry Day, an international session in which poets engage with the students who study their work as part of the GCSE curriculum. It will feature UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, John Agard, Simon Armitage, Imtiaz Dharker and Grace Nichols. This is another first for the Festival and has already proved to be popular with many schools.

Children can also enjoy the many free activities at the Time Out Story Corner and performances at the Festival Fringe Stages at the InterContinental Hotel and in Dubai Festival City Mall. Long-time supporters, Trinity College London, have been holding Shakespeare workshops as part of a programme that will culminate in a live performance at the Festival of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, presented by students and directed by teachers from schools across Dubai.

The growing popularity of the Festival is reflected not only in the increased interest by authors willing to participate, but also by the reach of the audience. British School Muscat will be bringing a group of students to attend the Festival. This year also marks the most successful year for the Festival’s many annual student competitions with increases in entries for the Oxford University Press Story Writing Competition and the Taaleem Award as well as the number of participants in the Hamdan bin Mohammed Heritage Center Qasidah par Coeur performance poetry competition. Organisers have also confirmed that schools from every Gulf country have participated in the Chevron Readers’ Cup this year. The prize giving ceremonies for all the competitions will take place at the Festival.

The Education Days run parallel to the Festival’s main programme which will feature more than 150 authors conducting 300 sessions. The Arabic programme will also reinforce the goals of the Arab Reading Challenge, launched in September 2015 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and patron of the Festival. A number of favourites, old and new, will be holding sessions and workshops for young people, including Fatima Sharafeddine, Maitha Al Khayat, Sahar Naja Mahfouz and Noura Al-Khoori.

For main programme events, ticket prices start at AED 50 and can be purchased via the Festival website or at select WHSmith stores across the UAE. Find out more about the Festival at the LitFest @ JBR event at Jumeirah Beach Residence.

All information about the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is on-line. Check for updates at Join us on Facebook (, Twitter (, Instagram ( and YouTube ( for competitions and more updates.