DUBAI, - Seven-year-old Mohammed Jallood from Algeria and Palestinian-based Talaie' Al-Amal School were declared the winners of the 2016 Arab Reading Challenge.

Jallood won the top prize of US$150,000, while Talaie' Al-Amal School was awarded $1 million as the school that displayed the highest degree of excellence in the challenge.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, crowned the winners at a spectacular awards ceremony hosted at the Dubai Opera House, and attended by more than 1,500 distinguished guests.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid also honoured the top 18 students and national finalists from around the Arab world who participated in the pre-final stages of the competition that also took place in Dubai.

In his address to the audience, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed expressed his joy at witnessing the unique award ceremony.

"A reading nation creates generations that inherit wellness, forgiveness and righteousness. Such a nation faces challenges with hope, perseverance, and determination. A reading generation will be able to build, create and interact positively with their surroundings and the world,'' HH Sheikh Mohammed said.

His Highness further emphasised that the Arab Reading Challenge is the UAE's message to the world that knowledge, education and thought have always been, and will remain, the weapon of choice for Arabs.

"The Arab world does not face a reading crisis but rather an incentive crisis. We wish to create a positive and collaborative environment in which education officials and parents work together to encourage our children to read and develop a passion for knowledge to expand their horizons," he stated.

Expressing pride in the achievements of the young participants in the competition, Sheikh Mohammed said, "Today we celebrate not just one winner but 3.5 million winners throughout the Arab world. We hope that next year we will surpass those numbers and draw the participation of more than seven million students in this reading challenge."

"The Arab Reading Challenge brought out the best in our Arab youth, demonstrating their determination and perseverance. Every book that our young people read enriches their minds, benefits their societies and assures a better future for their respective nations. In this challenge, we witnessed a generation that exceeded our expectations and proved to us that our future will be built by young people equipped with knowledge, diligence and creativity,'' HH added.

Speaking on the importance of the Arab Reading Challenge initiative, Sheikh Mohammed noted that children representing 54 nationalities from 21 countries worked together to participate in a single cultural and knowledge-based project which has served millions of students.

"This is a message that Arabs across countries can come together to work to drive positive change. We have in the Arab world immense potential, great minds and promising generations that we believe will create a better future for us, in this nation and throughout the region," he said.

Mohammed Jallood from Algeria emerged as the champion of the Arab Reading Challenge after overcoming stiff competition from Roa Hammod from Jordan and Wala' Al Baqqali from Bahrain. In their final delivery before an audience of some 1,500 spectators, the three finalists displayed their eloquence, oratory skills, and comprehension. Results were based on audience voting and grading of a specially instituted jury panel.

The Arab Reading Challenge is a comprehensive year-round competition, which requires students from participating schools to read and summarise at least 50 extra-curricular books during every academic year. It aims at promoting reading as a core habit for youth in the region, contributing as a result to the building generations that are enlightened, intellectual, and tolerant.

The first of its kind pan-Arab contest, the 2016 Arab Reading Challenge, attracted 3.5 million participants from 54 nationalities. Over 60,000 teachers and 30,000 schools from 21 countries took part in the contest which offered $3 million in awards, bursaries and educational resources to winning students and schools.

The Arab Reading Challenge aims to instil the culture of reading and build a new generation of knowledgeable, educated Arab youth. The first edition of the contest was supported by ministries of education in the participating countries.

Source: Emirates News Agency