Muscat: 'Maktabati', Oman's first mobile library and an initiative of Dar Al Atta'a's Let's Read Campaign, was launched here on Tuesday. The 'Maktabati' bus will travel across Oman, giving children "greater access to good books and an opportunity to develop a love of reading".
Based at the Public Knowledge Library in Qurum, the bus will travel around the country every day visiting schools, parks and public places. Its programme will also include literary activities, story-telling sessions and good books for them all to discover.
Children visiting 'Maktabati' will be able to purchase their first book for just 500 baisas. They can then exchange that book for another one on their next visit.
Speaking at the launch, Jane Jaffer, the force behind 'Maktabati' and Dar Al Atta'a's Let's Read Campaign, thanked the sponsors for their generosity and for playing a role in making the mobile library a reality.
Jane said, "Funds are still needed to sustain the mobile library project and we invite companies and individuals to become involved in this worthwhile cause by pledging funds for us to purchase books to stock 'Maktabati'. We will then be able to provide children with a continuous supply of good books. Volunteers are also needed to help us with our projects and activities."
Stressing that reading has never been more important than it is today, Jane explained, "According to Google, we now create as much information in two days as we did from the dawn of civilisation to the year 2003. Reading gives us the key to success, the ability to navigate information, to obtain qualifications and to find a good job. But the benefits of reading go much further than that.
"When we read, we use our imagination to create another world and we look out through other people's eyes. We develop empathy and understanding for others, allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals. Fiction can take us to places we've never been. "And once we've visited other worlds, we might be motivated to modify and improve our own. Factual books broaden our minds and teach us about the past."
She added, "We discover the wonders of this amazing world and we learn to equip ourselves for the future. In our ever stressful lives, reading can offer us a safe haven and an opportunity to relax." Saying it is not enough that they know how to read, Jane said, "Children need to enjoy reading.
Because the more they read, the more they will learn. The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, in its simplest form, giving children access to good books and the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of reading material."
Speaking about the Let's Read Campaign activities, Jane said, "We have been promoting the love of reading among children in Oman since 2007. The Let's Read Committee achieves its aims in a variety of ways. We set up play rooms, libraries and reading areas in hospitals, schools and nurseries. Each month we collect used books and hold a sale at the Al Qurum Complex. We conduct story-telling sessions in schools and buy books and distribute them to children in the outlying areas. Every year we hold a Big Book Day with literacy activities and story-telling sessions. Our annual Children's Writing Competition attracts hundreds of entries from all over the country. Many winning entries have been published."
The bus that has been transformed into a library has been designed with shelves for books and majlis style seating. With its attractive external graphics and paintings, the bus is sure to appeal to children.
Jane expressed her gratitude for The Women's Guild of Oman (WGO) which purchased the bus. She also thanked Dhofar Insurance, Al Busaidy, Mansoor Jamal &Co, Barrister & Legal Consultants, the Public Knowledge Library, Oman Air, Daub LLC, Sweets of Oman, Oman Insecticides and Air Fresheners Co, the American Women's Guild and Mommy and Me.
Sally Sleep, a former WGO President, said that the group was happy to back a worthwhile project. The bus was donated by the funds generated at WGO's Crystal Ball last year.
Lubna, a member of the Board of Directors, Dar Al Atta also spoke on the occasion. Students of the Al Sahwa School put up a performance at the launch event.