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Reading for Pleasure Project

One of the key aims of the Emirates Literature Foundation (ELF) is to help as many people, particularly young ones, fall in love with books and reading, through a variety of initiatives, including the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.

It is an established fact, following global research over the last forty years that children who read regularly for pleasure, outperform their peers, not just in English but in Mathematics and other subjects too. Those same children do better in their final exams, at universities and in careers. Reading for pleasure is a vital accomplishment and we need to work harder to enable more children to discover this.

In 2019 the Emirates Literature Foundation and the UAE Ministry of Education (MOE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a key focus on the encouragement of reading for pleasure amongst MOE students.

The Reading for Pleasure project was conceived with this goal in mind. It aims to ensure that more than 250,000 Emirati students across the country are given a solid and imaginative opportunity to find pleasure in reading the selected books, in Arabic and English.

How It Works

The Reading for Pleasure project will stretch over the academic year 2020-2021, across all grades from 1 to 12, in three cycles.

The project is divided into five 4-week modules, with each one featuring a book in English or in Arabic. These modules will form part of the curriculum with a dedicated time in the schedule across government schools in the Emirates.

Each book will be the focus for a period of four weeks during which there will be a virtual pre-recorded webinar with the author to discuss the book with students. Each week will also have a focus on different aspects of the book such as characters, themes, drama, art. (The authors’ webinars will be filmed in advance and edited to ensure high-quality delivery to schools and students!)

The chosen books cover diverse topics and suitability across different ages and interests. Teachers will be provided with resource packs with ideas and suggested activities, drama and artwork suitable for each book. They can then decide what works best for their own students as they try different ways to bring books to life in their classrooms.

ELF has organized webinars for all teachers at the commencement of each book for the four weeks sequence. During the webinar, there will be case studies of the chosen books, a chance for teachers to gather information, and ideas, and ask questions. At the end of the academic year, each student will have five wonderful books in Arabic and English to add to their home library or to start their own library at home so that the whole family can benefit from them.

Most importantly, there will be no marking or testing at the end of each module on vocabulary or comprehension. The focus will be on enjoyment and a chance to view books and reading in a different way.

Benefits of Reading for Pleasure

  • Reading attainment and writing ability that includes text comprehension and grammar
  • General knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures
  • Breadth of vocabulary
  • Positive attitudes, empathy and tolerance
  • Greater self-confidence and better insight into human nature and decision making



The books selected for the first and second modules are as follows:

Module 1

Can I Go Out Now Book Cover
The Pearl Diver Book Cover
The Pearl Diver's Son Book Cover
Can I Go Out Now?
Written by Ebtisam Al – Beiti and Illustrated by Hana Augustine
A story for all the children who have had to stay home during difficult times. Little Earth is not feeling very well. He misses all his little planet friends. Can he find a special way to talk to them? And what will help Little Earth get better?
The Pearl Diver
Written by Julia Johnson and Illustrated by Patricia Al Fakhri
Six-year-old Saeed and his father Abdullah, one of the finest pearl divers in the Arabian Gulf, are going out to dive for pearls. Discover how Saeed adapts to life on board the sambuk and how he copes on his first adventure out to sea. What challenges lie ahead in this perilous but potentially lucrative trade?
The Pearl Diver’s Son
Written by Julia Johnson and Illustrated by Christina Espinosa
A year ago, Rashid’s father sailed away to dive for pearls in the Arabian sea. He never returned. Now, a new pearling season has begun, and Rashid must leave his family to take his father’s place on the dhow, gathering oysters from the seabed. The difficult, dangerous work is worrying enough, but worse than that, no one will tell him how his father really died. Determined to discover the truth, Rashid begins a journey that will change him forever.

Module 2

Lubna and Pebble Book Cover
Little Lion Book Cover
Abdullah and His Grandfather Book Cover
Lubna and Pebble
Written by Wendy Meddour and Illustrated by Daniel Egneus
Lubna’s best friend is a pebble. Pebble always listens to her stories. Pebble always smiles when she feels scared. But when a lost little boy arrives in the World of Tents, Lubna realizes that he needs Pebble even more than she does.
This emotionally stirring and stunningly illustrated picture book explores one girl’s powerful act of friendship in the midst of an unknown situation.
Little Lion
Written by Saroo Brierly and Illustrated by Bruce Whatley
Can you imagine being lost and not finding your way home again? Saroo Brierley became lost on a train in India when he was only five. He survived for weeks on the streets, before being taken into an orphanage and adopted by his Australian family. Despite being happy, Saroo always wondered about where he was from. And one day, after years of searching, he miraculously found what he was looking for.
This incredible true story celebrates the importance of hope and never giving up.
Abdullah and His Grandfather
Written by Andy McNab and Illustrated by Patricia Al Fakhri
Abdullah is eleven years old and, in the eyes of his grandfather, ‘coming of age’. Join the two men, young and old, as they set off together on their own journey of discovery and explore for themselves Wadi Hasik and all the natural wonders it has to offer.
See what they see. Feel what they feel. Smell what they smell and then maybe you will understand a little more about the Fusus al Arabia or the Jewel of Arabia.

Module 3

Commotion in the Ocean Book Cover
The Secret Life of Dubai Street Cats Book Cover
The Last Bear Book Cover
Commotion in the Ocean
Written by Giles Andreae and Illustrated by David Wojtowycz
There’s a curious commotion, at the bottom of the ocean; I think we ought to go and take a look. You’ll find every sort of creature, that lives beneath the sea; swimming through the pages of this book. The sequel to the best-selling Rumble in the Jungle, this delightful new collection of poems includes fun rhymes about the creatures who live in and around the ocean. Children will delight in the snappy poems and colourful illustrations about whales, walruses, penguins, polar bears, stingrays and sharks.
The Secret Life of Dubai Street Cats
Written by Bashayer Arif and Illustrated by Eilis Boyle
Sharpclaw is no ordinary street cat. She’s a feisty Arabian Mau and a born leader. Together with her two best friends, Twitch and Blacktail, she roams the streets of Dubai, naps in the sun and meows happily at the kind humans who feed her. Sharpclaw can handle any kind of trouble. But when a terrifying house cat called Killtooth moves into their neighbourhood, the trio’s peaceful lives are shaken up. Can they successfully escape from Killtooth and find a new home for themselves? Join the three street cats as they explore the city of Dubai in a story of friendship, forgiveness and feline frenzy.
The Last Bear
Written by Hannah Gold and Illustrated by Levi Pinfold
There are no polar bears left on Bear Island. At least, that’s what April’s father tells her when his scientific research takes them to this remote Arctic outpost for six months. But one endless summer night, April meets one. He is starving, lonely and a long way from home. Determined to save him, April begins the most important journey of her life…
This moving story will win the hearts of children the world over and show them that no one is too young or insignificant to make a difference. The Last Bear is a celebration of the love between a child and an animal, a battle cry for our world and an irresistible adventure with a heart as big as a bear’s.


Tips and Resources

  • Get Personal when you tell stories about your experiences. These stories humanize teachers before their students, inspiring them
  • Teaching Content through Storytelling. Students learn to become active and critical listeners through storytelling. Teachers of other content areas may take our natural inclination to tell stories in the English or Arabic classroom as evidence that storytelling is unsuitable for their classrooms. This is a misconception, however, as storytelling is applicable to all subject areas.
  • Interactive Storytelling: During interactive storytelling, students are invited to pose questions, chime in, act out scenes, and much more while a teacher tells a story. The possibilities are endless, and the engagement is always high!
  • Reading to the class: Encouraging children to read for pleasure is about more than getting them to pick up a book; it’s equally important for children to appreciate a good story. It’s important to make sure you read to them as much as they read for themselves or other people, making it a more supportive environment.
  • Showcase your work: MOE schools and teachers can show some of their work and their students’ activities on social media by using the hashtags: #UAEReadingForPleasure and #MOEReadingforPleasure.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


Contact Us

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for the project, email us at

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