JEDDAH: In a world dominated by the smartphone and the screen, bookworms have been forced to retreat into the shadows, rarely seen beyond the inner sanctums of libraries and reading rooms. Jeddah Reads, though, plans to change that.
A book-based social initiative, Jeddah Reads is a group that came together with one aim: To revive reading in their city by making books more available for people yet to discover their inner bibliophile.
Formed in 2015, the group thinks that by holding reading groups, workshops and social gatherings, more people will make the choice to start reading for themselves.
Huda Merchant, founder of Jeddah Reads, explained: “In 2014, I was researching cultural issues and trends in Saudi Arabia, and something I noticed was the complete lack of a reading culture.”
Among the projects being organized is Wameed 2.0, a series of talks on various themes, recent growth and change to coincide with the new year, to encourage people to use books to help them achieve their goals.
Abrar Al-Qayem, the project manager, said: “We try to have passionate members. That is the soul of this particular project; to encourage people with creative ideas, be they language-based, say, or artistic, who want to develop them.”
Jeddah Reads has reached out to coffee shops and hospitals to promote their message. “We would like to see people reading books instead of texting,” Al-Qayem added. “Reading in the community is dying.”
When gathering information about reading in schools, for example, Jeddah Reads made the shocking discovery that over 60 percent of them don’t have libraries.
“There is a stigma about reading, because new devices are faster and more efficient. We aim to change this, to eliminate the stigma associated with reading,” said Al-Qayem.
The group gives free packages to new readers, with stationery, trinkets and, of course, a book. “We leave it up to chance to decide if the reader will like it!” Al-Qayem explained.
“For me, reading is healing. I faced a lot of health problems, so I was always stuck with a book. Reading became an escape. I believe that words are powerful; you can always go anywhere through books.”
The next stage for Jeddah Reads is to expand their events to cater for all genders, age groups and genres, and at the rate the movement is progressing, it surely won’t be long before the population of Jeddah transforms into an army of avid readers.