Sheikh Khalifa believes the United Arab Emirates would benefit in multiple ways if people there had more time to read. So he saw to it that a law got passed requiring employers to do their bit.
The National reports, “Employees will be given time off work to read under a law that was passed [in October], which also exempts reading material from taxes and fees.
“The President, Sheikh Khalifa, announced the law, which is aimed at achieving the country’s vision of a knowledge-based economy. …
“As part of the law, the Government will give a ‘knowledge briefcase’ to the families of newborns.
“Schools will be obliged to encourage reading among pupils, as well as a respect for books. Books that are no longer wanted must not be destroyed, but preserved, reused or donated, Sheikh Mohammed said.
“Fees and taxes for distributing, publishing and printing reading material will be scrapped, and facilities for authors, editors and publishing houses will be provided. Sheikh Mohammed said the law would consolidate ‘the cultural image of books in our society, and oblige coffee shops in shopping malls to offer reading material for customers.’ …
“A national fund will be set up to support reading initiatives and assist media organisations to advertise the importance of books. The fund will also be used organise a month dedicated each year to promoting literature.”
It’s an unusual approach, but it seems OK as long as there is freedom to choose what gets read. Lately, I’ve been immersed in the beautiful, wrenching autobiography of poet Jimmy Santiago Baca and learning all over again how literacy gives people wings. Baca learned to read in prison at around age 20 and it transformed his life.