HSBC and the British Council have announced the launch of ‘Kids Read,’ an initiative aimed at fostering good reading habits, encouraging reading for pleasure in and out of the classrooms in government primary schools across the Middle East and Asia. The initiative is being launched for the second consecutive academic year. The year-long programme actively engages primary schoolchildren, teachers, parents and guardians through a combination of school activities and community events. This year the ‘Kids Read’ will reach out to over 25,000 children in the region covering Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan and Palestine. The one-of-its-kind programme was launched at Al Bayan Primary 1 Girls Independent School yesterday at a function attended by senior staff members from HSBC and the British Council. The launch included a high energy story telling session delivered by Kevin Graal. Graal is an experienced UK storyteller and teacher trainer and his combination of storytelling skills and timing proved to be a great hit with children and teachers alike. Ayman R Kolthoum, head of Global Markets at HSBC, said the collaboration with the British Council was a great platform to supporting the development of children’s reading skills and overall educational development. “The Kids Read was very successful last year. Our staff volunteers participated in a number of sessions and noted the increased level of interest and active participation of the children. HSBC will continue its participation in the programme and is excited to be part of it for the second consecutive year. The British Council is an invaluable partner and makes a tangible difference in the community, particularly in the areas of education and the environment,” he said. “During its first year Kids Read was awarded a silver ‘Stevie’ award in the corporate social responsibility programme of the year (Middle East and Africa) category in the International business awards so we see this as a very encouraging sign that it is being well-received,” said British Council Director Martin Hope. “Following the success of the first year of Kids Read, we are immensely excited to be launching this follow-up programme, which will enable many more children to develop their reading skills. Kids Read is an important component of our English for the Future offer in Qatar. I am grateful to HSBC for their continued support for this initiative. It would not have been possible without their generous funding and their staff volunteers participating in the community events.” “Kids Read aims at promoting good reading habits at an early age with a long-term view to improving performance across a range of life skills in addition to developing language skills and critical thinking. A number of books and interactive lesson plans have been made available to teachers for use during class time, which will support children moving from teacher-led reading to becoming independent readers. The community events revolve around the themes of value for money, arts and culture, volunteerism and the environment,” said Hope As with the first year, in addition to funding the programme, over 300 HSBC Bank Middle East Limited and affiliate staff members will be involved directly with Kids Read through a volunteer programme which will see them take on storytelling roles, arts and crafts helper roles and other various activities during the community events throughout the year.