Dubai Cares has recently concluded a successful program in Nepal focused on establishing reading rooms in schools and non-formal education centers around the country, in partnership with Room to Read. With a total budget of more than AED 2,750,000 (USD 751,176), the 3-year program succeeded in establishing 220 school libraries across 8 districts in Nepal leading to stronger reading habits among children. Dubai Cares also sponsored the publishing of 5 local language titles inspired by children’s stories and their everyday activities. A total of 499,337 books were distributed over the program’s lifetime reaching more than 66,000 students.
The initiative in Nepal was part of Dubai Cares’ Million Book Challenge launched in 2008 which invited school children aged 3-14 in Dubai to participate in a nationwide read-a-thon with a goal to read one million books in two weeks. For each book a child read, Dubai Cares purchased a new book written in local languages for distribution among school children in various developing countries.
Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares said: “We believe all children deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential, and in this context, developing reading skills is vitally important. Our program in Nepal has clearly helped in developing a higher level of reading skills, promoting vocabulary development and creative thinking as well as increasing student access to subjects and ideas beyond the classroom curriculum. With age-appropriate reading material extremely scarce in such marginalized areas, the libraries that we established together with Room to Read were able to fill that void, providing both access to appealing reading material and a safe space to learn and explore.”
Dr. Geetha Murali, Chief Development Officer of Room to Read said: "Room to Read is honored to partner with Dubai Cares to help children develop the skills and habit of reading across seven countries is Asia and Africa. Through this partnership, Room to Read has established 489 libraries, published 14 new children's book titles, and distributed over one million books to Room to Read libraries, local schools, and local non-for-profit organizations. Room to Read began with a simple desire to bring books to the children of Nepal 13 years ago, and now we have set a goal of reaching 10 million children with our programs by 2015. It is only because of partners like Dubai Cares that this ambitious goal is now within our reach."
Technical training was provided to school librarians and teachers around effective library organization, maintenance and overall management. Children were also trained on how to use and preserve the library and its books. Library clubs have also been established among students to allow them to participate in quizzes, drawings and games. The local communities around the schools have been very active in supporting the program by contributing funds for the purchase of additional books every year. This high level of engagement and commitment by parents ensures a measure of sustainability that will prolong the benefits of the libraries for many more children in the future.