(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) A 10-year-old girl in Dubai has been declared as the UAE's most avid reader, beating more than 450,000 participants of the Arab Reading Challenge (ARC). Mezna Najeeb, a grade 5 student of Al Ebdaa Model School, will now take part in the semifinals of the competition with winners from other countries. She surpassed her target of reading 50 books and ended up reading 100 in a year, her mother told Khaleej Times.
The Arab Reading Challenge (ARC) was launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in 2015 to encourage one million students to read and summarise 50 books in one academic year. A total of 13.5 million children participated in the fourth edition of the challenge this year.
Sheikh Mohammed took to Twitter to personally congratulate Mezna. "Congratulations to our champion Mezna Najeeb who outperformed 455,000 students from more than 1,400 public and private school to become the ARC winner of the UAE. With you, Mezna, and your fellow Arab students, we are optimistic about the future."
Mezna's mother told Khaleej Times that the little girl wants to be a writer someday. "It was a dream come true for Mezna to represent her country internationally."
She said Sheikh Mohammed was a "great motivation" for Mezna. She has previously published her stories in a local magazine.
Her mother said that one of the stories her daughter wrote for the challenge was 'Mimi and the Reading Challenge', with the Mimi being based on herself. "Mezna prefers reading books and stories related to literature and fiction. Sometimes, I gift her with books as presents to encourage her to read more," the mother added.
Dh400,000 worth of prizes
Mezna was selected from the top 10 finalists across the UAE's educational zones during a ceremony held at the Dubai Men's College, which saw Dh400,000 worth of prizes handed to the participating students.
During the awards ceremony, Jameela Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Public Education, said: "In our fast-paced world, today is different from yesterday, and we are aware that tomorrow brings new challenges. If we want to stay ahead in the rapidly-changing world we live in, we must read and continue reading. We read to develop our minds, to imagine and to gain new skills that can help us build a better future for the UAE. In the Year of Tolerance, we read to learn and coexist with other cultures and civilisations."
Last year, Moroccan student Mariam Amjoun, 9, took home the grand prize of Dh500,000 after she won the final round of the ARC. She beat more than 10.5 million students from 44 countries, who collectively read over 250 million books as part of the challenge.
The date of the final round of the ARC is yet to be announced.
The different stages of the Dh500,000 challenge
>The Arab Reading Challenge had 13.5 million participating students
>From March, the organisers started narrowing it down to the top 10 winners from each country
>It saw elimination stages at different levels like classroom, school, district, directorate etc.
>The national winner from each country will compete in the semi-finals and then finals in Dubai later this year