To get more people in Qatar to embrace reading, new efforts are underway to make books more accessible to the public, especially children.
Though there are no large public libraries here, several ad hoc groups serve as spaces where people can spend time reading or checking out books and other publications.
These include Maktaba children’s library, a Doha Mums library and a used book exchange at Katara Cultural Village.
This week, Qatar Foundation said it was launching a National Reading Campaign to combine the efforts into a unified plan, though it did not specify which ones.
Lacking reading culture
Though Qatar has a high literacy rate, educators have long stressed the need to inculcate a reading culture in the country’s children.
Last year, a study by the locally-based Childhood Cultural Center found that Qatari children have a “lack (of) interest in reading books, stories and magazines.”
But reading has many benefits for society, president of QF’s Community Development department Fahad Saad Al Qahtani said in a statement:
“Extensive research has revealed that reading aloud is the single most important activity for improving language and literacy skills and, amongst other things, this initiative will seek to promote this activity.
Ultimately, we hope that this campaign will contribute to the continuing development of this nation,” he said.
Currently, QF’s first phase of the campaign – reading sessions to school children – is already underway.
In the coming months, other plans include:
- Rolling out a reading truck that will operate a mobile library;
- Setting up vending machines in schools that allow children to exchange up to 10 books at time;
- Hosting “immersive” story-telling sessions; and
- Opening pop-up stores and holding public activities to get the whole family involved in promoting a “book-loving culture” in Qatar.
Meanwhile, work on the Qatar National Library continues.
QNL currently offers residents a chance to use its extensive online resources of fiction and non-fiction publications and research materials for free.
The building has so far missed previous opening dates of 2013 and 2014, but when it does eventually open is expected to include a metropolitan public borrowing library in addition to national archives and a university and research library.