Posted on April 07, 2020

Staying at home to self-isolate can be mentally challenging, but it is a necessary precaution as the country works to proactively tackle COVID-19. However, reading can certainly help alleviate stress and anxiety. As Al-Jazi Al-henzab, Project Manager of Qatar Reads, says, “Reading isn’t tied to a physical place, a specific time, or mandatory format – wherever there are words, there are stories and learning opportunities.”

And there are many benefits to reading. “It improves memory, expands vocabulary, and keeps the mind sharp. It can also have an incredibly calming effect on the reader, while lowering stress levels. And of course it can also provide people with an escape, which is needed now more than ever,” says Al-Jazi. “And all kinds of reading is beneficial – not just textbooks. From non-fiction books such as biographies, autobiographies, handbooks, and memoirs, to fiction books with genres like crime, drama, mystery, and fantasy. Short attention span? Read a haiku.”

The Qatar Foundation initiative is also working to provide learning opportunities to the local community during this time. Parents with children are encouraged to sign up for the Family Reading Program, which sees members receive monthly books, activity sheets, and comics delivered via a specially constructed mailbox outside homes, with the team adhering to the strictest health and safety measures set out by the Ministry of Public Health. Additionally, its Mommy to Be program is to launch in the coming weeks, which will – to start with – exist in the digital sphere only.

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Alternatively, the Qatar Reads team suggests creating online book clubs, using digital video platforms to discuss ideas and themes. “In quarantine it may be hard to find new conversations, so show your children that reading a book is a way they can continue to connect with their friends. “As children tend to emulate their parents, it’s about what you do instead of what you say,” Al-Jazi explains. “One of the best ways to encourage your children to read is for you to read in front of them. “Use this time to finish the novel you’ve had your eye on for a while, or find something completely new to read. Maybe even start a reading list. Alternatively, involve the whole family by initiating group reading time – either by reading to your children or asking your children to read aloud to the whole family.”

Qatar Reads is trying to make reading as accessible as possible, posting content and material to its Instagram account, with live storytelling sessions to launch in the coming weeks. Qatar National Library also offers a large selection of online resources, and Scholastic – the partner of the Family Reading Program – is providing free online reading material to users. Instructions on how to access these resources are available via the Qatar Reads Instagram page.

For more information, or to register for any of the Qatar Reads initiatives – including the April edition of the Family Reading Program – please visit https://qatarreads.qa

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