Doha, Qatar – 23 April, 2014: More than 1,350 students gathered today to set a new Guinness World Records title for the ‘Largest Reading Lesson’, in Arabic at the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC). The event was attended by His Excellency Dr. Mohammed Abdul Wahid Al-Hammadi, the Minister of Education and Higher Education and Secretary General of the Supreme Education Council and Hamad Rashid Al Mohannadi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), RasGas Company Limited (RasGas). The event was hosted, by RasGas, the Supreme Education Council, Maktaba Qatar (Maktaba) and Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (BQFP).

This initiative coincides with UNESCO’s annual World Book Day (WBD), reflecting education as a vital component of the Qatar National Vision 2030 human development pillar and also supporting the preservation of the Arabic language as core to our cultural heritage.

Children, aged between five and ten years, and their teachers, from independent local schools across Qatar, came together to break the current Guinness World Records, previously held by the USA with 451 children participating in one reading lesson.

With public engagement at the heart of the event, participants took part in an hour-long reading lesson based on the BQFP published Arabic language children’s title ‘Anger’, written by Sarah Medina.

Following the hugely successful interactive session, a Guinness World Records official announced the record breaking success.

His Excellency Dr. Al-Hammadi, said that “promoting the Arabic language is one of the main priorities we have when developing our curricula at the Supreme Education Council, as per the directives of HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. Therefore it is our duty to support all the initiatives aiming at reinstating the noblest language in the world, whether in writing, reading or spelling. SEC’s interest in the Arabic language is manifested in many initiatives and activities, especially National Arabic Spelling Competition which will be held next month, for the third year in a row.”

Minister Al-Hammadi concluded: “I would like to congratulate RasGas Company Limited, Maktaba Qatar and Bloomsbury-Qatar Foundation Publishing for this achievement, and seize the moment to invite other companies to incorporate pioneering educational initiatives within their CSR programs, and the Supreme Education Council is always ready to discuss any creative ideas to enhance education at all levels.”

RasGas CEO, Al Mohannadi commented: “Today’s historic event brought together children from all walks of life to instill a love for reading from an early age. The event truly reinforces our commitment to create a sustainable and positive impact on the community by supporting education, and fostering a passion for learning that extends beyond the traditional classroom. We should all be very proud of what we have achieved today. It is truly remarkable to see so many passionate children open up to the possibilities of what a single book can unfold”.

The event was held as part of RasGas’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme which supports education. The initiative is designed to motivate children to appreciate reading Arabic literature by encouraging interaction, co-creation, and inspiring discussion. It is a continuation of last year’s RasGas and Maktaba collaboration to promote reading and literacy, especially in Arabic, among the younger generation.

Sarah Champa Al Dafa, Founder of Maktaba, commented: “It was a great honour to be a part of this historic effort. This record is an excellent representation of Qatar’s commitment to fostering a strong culture of reading and raising generations of readers to be leaders.”

BQFP also provided Arabic language book copies from their children's book series FEELINGS, along with substantial educational material.

Arend Küster, Acting Director of Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, said: “Getting children excited about reading is what World Book Day is all about and we at Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing are delighted to have participated in the event here in Qatar, and have donated 3,000 copies each of ‘Angry’, and ‘Caring’ in Arabic from the FEELINGS children’s book series published by BQFP”.

Books are often powerful forms of knowledge exchange in societies and across generations, and are significant vehicles for the reinforcement of cultural traditions. The Largest Reading Lesson initiative is designed to not only preserve the Arabic language but to protect and cultivate it.
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