As part of the 9th Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature, Dr. Hany Torky, CTA of the Arab Knowledge Project, presented the Arab Reading Index and some of its “surprising revelations about reading habits in the Arab Region – including that rates of reading for pleasure are not nearly as low as previously reported, and that the UAE ranks fourth (behind Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco) in reading rates for the region, reading an average of 24 books a year.”

The presentation was part of a panel discussion entitled “Accessible Arabic: The Arab Reading Index and Google Books.” The session was held in InterContinental Dubai, and featured in addition to Torky, Ivan Jakovljevic, Sector Lead for Travel and Finance at Google Middle East and North Africa. Panel moderator was Heba Hussein Essa, digital media TV and radio department director at Dubai Media Inc, Government of Dubai.

In his turn, Jakolvljevic presented Google’s upcoming Arabic books project, discussing with participants what can be further done to make books more accessible and how to engage more readers.

Torky discussed the importance of the Arab reading index, and more generally the importance of establishing a framework for monitoring reading practices and enabling environments in the Arab region. He also noted that the Arab reading index not only monitors reading practice in books and hours, but more importantly monitors the family, school and local community environments with regards to promoting reading practices and providing access to reading opportunities such as reading at school, book exchanges and exhibitions, national strategies and campaigns, among others.

The panelists stressed the importance of the Arabic language, besides the importance of foreign languages. Also they discussed the trends in electronic reading and its impact on paper-based reading, and what are the differences in reading between the two mediums.

Torky’s participation comes in the context of the Arab Knowledge Project efforts to increase popular awareness towards the importance of reading and knowledge as a prelude for achieving sustainable human development in the Arab Region.