OMAN: A Reading Dilemma

OMAN: A Reading Dilemma


Being a bookworm myself, reading has been an issue of interest for me for ages. I believe reading is what made me the person I am today and surely will keep adding more to my personality as I grow older.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
George R.R. Martin

Reading has been a crucial part of my life. As a speech and language therapist, I have used story books with my patients to work on speech, language and social skills. I have used them to break the ice and make the children at ease. I have also used story books while working on imaginative play, and more. Reading is essential for my work with children at my private business, and it is invaluable in my voluntary work with children in different settings. My son reads a great deal each day, and I read to my daughters almost daily as well. It is quite an integral part of my daily life, and that of my children as well.

This is all normal and would normally be nothing worthy of noting. However, in the region of the Middle East, it is an issue that has been of alarm. A study done by Arab Thought Foundation in 2012 revealed that Arabs read only an average of 6 minutes a year!

I am not exactly sure of the reasons that lead to such a lack of reading in our culture. In my personal experience, I found that many Omani families do not read to their children. Some do not even know why reading aloud to children is important, and very few are willing to spend the money to buy children’s story books. I remember a few parents asking me to provide literacy work (counting, alphabets, etc.) for their children instead of story books because the former will help with school while the latter is a waste of time and money. The number of women I met personally during my life in Oman who read for leisure are so few I can name them. Reading is almost completely unheard of.

I think this is an important subject to target in the next few years. There are some wonderful initiatives that focus on encouraging reading among children, like the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Reading Initiative, which encourages students across the Arab world to read more. Academics have begun researching this topic as well, examining the lack of reading culture and the benefits that would be gained in developing such culture.

What do you think about this reading dilemma? Is reading to children a part of your culture?

This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Ibtisam Alwardi from Oman. 

Photo courtesy of Rosmarie Voegtli / Flickr.

Ibtisam Alwardi

Ibtisam (at Ibtisam's musings) is an Omani Mom of three, living in the capital city of Oman ,Muscat. After working for ten years as a speech and language therapist in a public hospital, she finally had the courage to resign and start her own business. She had a dream of owning a place where she can integrate fun, play and 'books', thus the iPlay Smart centre (@iplaysmart) was born. Currently she is focusing on raising awareness through social media about parenting, childhood, language acquisition. She started raising awareness on (the importance of reading) and (sexual harassment) targeting school-aged children. Ibtisam enjoys writing, both in Arabic and English, reading and working closely with children. She plans to write children books (in Arabic) one day. Contact Ibtisam at ibtisamblogging(at)

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