In association with the Executive Council of Dubai, Emirates Literature Foundation recently announced the names of the Best Librarians in the UAE.
In the private schools category, Sonia Alnahawi from Aspen Heights British School in Abu Dhabi was awarded the 1st prize for her “outstanding commitment” to promoting reading for pleasure among students.
Ms Alnahawi shares details of how she motivated students at Aspen Heights British School to read over the last 18 months, and what she feels makes her library so special.
“There were a few different initiatives and activities that I lead at Aspen over the last year or so. I recorded 3 different stories for different year groups, and I wore a mask or I used puppets and story sacks to enact the books in these videos. These were then shared with families through our school apps. Families, especially the children, really enjoyed these videos.
When our students are at school, I wanted to give them the option to read during their break times, so I placed QR codes in the break areas. The QR codes were on the floors in the corridors and in various places in the outdoor yards. Students were able to scan these QR codes and read these books digitally during their break.
I also organized various online reading events, a virtual book fair, webinars with authors, and even a workshop on reading, for parents.
I want to make sure that our students and families understand that reading for information and reading for fun, is important for everyone. I truly believe that today’s reader can become tomorrow’s leader.
When I was in secondary school, I loved the library and I loved reading a lot. I dreamt of becoming a librarian in the future. I followed this dream and now I have a Bachelors’ Degree in the Management of Libraries and a Higher Diploma in Library and Educational resources. I also have 13 years of experience working in School Libraries.
My library at Aspen is special because I have built it. I joined the school when it opened, and this allowed me to choose every single book and create every single reading space in our library. Libraries have the ability to provide a world of knowledge, and I think the world that we have created at Aspen Heights British School library is something that each one of our students benefits from.”
The Judges had this to say about why they felt Sonia Al Nahawi deserves to win first place: “This librarian demonstrates that the School Librarian of the Year does not have to come from the library with the biggest budget. Through their own ingenuity, hard work, and warm heart, this librarian supported students, their parents, and the school through a tough year – with a little help from a puppet whose expertise is Arabic storytelling. The winner actively encourages students to take ownership of their own reading and the library space and encourages parental involvement. Although dressing up as a bear to read to students in 40 degree weather warrants winning the award all on its own, we were truly impressed by the work and consideration this librarian has for students of all needs and abilities. Thank you to this librarian for the welcoming and inclusive space they have created in their library, both online and offline for students.”
As the first place winner in the Private School Category, Sonia has won: An all-inclusive trip to the Warner Bros Studio in London, a visit to the British Library, a voucher for AED 4000 to spend towards library furniture for the school and a voucher for AED 2000 to spend towards books for the school library.