Becoming Readers: Our Stories

Abstract

There is a widely held belief that Arabs do not read for leisure (Al-Huwaider, 2003; Al Sayegh, 2007). A prominent Gulf Arab university college of education website states, “Generally, Arabic is a non-reading culture.” However, as educators, we cannot rely on assumptions alone. If we ask students about their reading habits we might find that such assumptions may simply be, to some extent, what Aronson (2000) calls, “myths masquerading as truths” (p. 5). As part of an ongoing qualitative study of the leisure reading habits of female Emirati university students, six participants were invited to co-author this article with the researcher by writing their stories of how they came to be readers. They were asked to respond to the question, “How did you come to be a reader?” and, although some sub-topics were suggested for their inclusion, the overall content was their choice. The social embededness of leisure reading and literacy in general requires rich description that is best expressed through qualitative data. The stories were collated by the researcher and edited by the participants who also approved the final version of the article. It is hoped that by adopting an ethnographic approach, these stories will illustrate the different paths that Emirati women can take to becoming readers and the essential role played by parents and teachers.

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