An Open Book
In this day and age, we can access books at the touch of a button or the swipe of a screen. We can read books on any number of devices, including our phones. Great for life on the go, travelling and moving or living abroad—e-books are lightweight, easy to access and easy to store!
However, nothing can replace the sensation of running your fingers across a shelf of books, paging through colourful illustrations or the scent of the ink and pages of a book. Children progress through reading levels at an astonishing rate, and they can rapidly change interest in topics as they grow. So, how do we satisfy our children’s reading needs without resorting to electronic readers?
Libraries, of course!
Where to find libraries in Qatar?
The majority of Qatar’s libraries are listed on the Qatar National Library’s website (qnl.qa). However, the government-run public libraries carry very few books in English. Nevertheless, there are some lovely libraries around Doha where children of all ages—from infants to teens—can fall in love with the printed word.
Doha Mums Children’s Library
Founded by mums for parents and children, the Doha Mums Children’s Library has more than 9,000 books for all ages—infants, adolescents, young teens—there’s even a selection of parenting books. Books are available in a variety of languages including Arabic, English, Spanish, French, Dutch and Korean.
Run entirely by volunteers, the library is limited to members of the Doha Mums community. This not-for-profit library also runs animated storytelling sessions, holiday parties and colourful arts and crafts activities. A programme to encourage early literacy is planned for this autumn as well.
Interested in volunteering? Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org—teen volunteers are also welcome.
Location: Al Gharaffa
Hours: Hours vary. Check the Doha Mums members' calendar for up and coming hours.
Fees: Annual membership is QR 120 per family, which entitles each child to borrow five books for up to four weeks. The annual membership fee to join Doha Mums is an additional QR 150. Learn about joining Doha Mums by visiting dohamums.com/faq.
Maktaba is a bright, cheerful and comfortable venue. The library offers more than 4,000 books in Arabic, English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Greek.
The biggest draw to this not-for-profit library is its abundance of reading and literacy activities. They offer daily storytelling sessions, regular arts and crafts, gardening activities, cooking lessons, costume parties, Arabic-immersion playdates, sensory playgroups for babies and toddlers and homework help as well as activities and clubs for mums and dads.
Location: Al Mabahej and Saha 33, Onaiza, West Bay
Hours: Saturday to Thursday 09:00–17:00
Check their Facebook page for events information.
Fees: Access to the library, afternoon storytelling and various events throughout the year are free. Maktaba also offers camps and workshops that range in cost from QR 75–600.
Annual membership is QR 500 per family, which allows the family to borrow three books for up to two weeks, or QR 750 for six books. All members must also pay a QR 250 deposit. Members receive discounts on paid workshops and activities and access to members-only events.
Museum of Islamic Art Library
The Museum of Islamic Art is not only an interesting museum, but it also houses a growing children’s reference library. Currently, the library holds more than 500 books on storybooks, art history, art activities, culture, history, science and general reference. Books are offered in Arabic or English, but publications in a few other languages are also available.
In addition to the library and museum, children can enjoy educational games, writing book reviews for the “book review tree” and a variety of creative activities. Additionally, the library holds monthly Arabic and English story time sessions for three- to five-year-olds.
The museum has a café and a restaurant ideal for hungry and thirsty young readers.
Location: 1st Floor, Education Wing, Museum of Islamic Art
Contact details: +974 4422-4420
Hours: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday 10:30–17:30; Tuesday closed; Thursday to Saturday 12:00–20:00
Qatar National Library
Though not yet open, the Qatar National Library expects to offer more than 30,000 children’s books in Arabic, English and a selection of other languages. The library will also offer various programmes and activities for all ages including storytime sessions; puppet shows; arts and crafts; book reviews; and science, cultural, reading and literacy programmes. While we patiently await the library's opening, check their website for a range of free online resources.
Location: Education City, Qatar Foundation
Contact details: +974 4454-6039
Hours: To be confirmed once the library has opened
Fees: Free for those living in Qatar with a valid Qatar ID or residents permit
A number of schools in Doha open their libraries to the parents and siblings of children enrolled in their school. If your child attends kindergarten through to secondary school, it is worth enquiring about their policies on public access and borrowing.
Maktabty is a bright and colourful bookshop and activity centre located in Villaggio Mall. Founded by the Childhood Cultural Centre, this not-for-profit enterprise promotes literacy through reading and creative activities. The shop sells books at wholesale prices and offers a limited number of books available to read on-site.
The majority of literature is in Arabic, but a small number of English books is available. Storytelling, arts and crafts activities and access to educational computer games are available every day. Literacy and crafts workshops are hosted three to four times per month. Plans for the centre include a cinema showing National Geographic Kids and other educational programmes.
Location: Villaggio Mall (next to Gondolania), Al Waab
Contact details: +974 3097-3098
Hours: Saturday to Thursday 10:00–22:00, Friday 16:00–22:00
Create a book swap
If the above libraries are difficult for you to access, you can always organise a book swap. The idea is simple: find other parents who are interested in exchanging books and meet at a local venue such as a coffee shop, a community room within your compound or your own front room. It is a great way for families to meet and a low-cost way to access a variety of books.
You can keep it small, swapping amongst a group of friends, families in your compound or, if you’re feeling adventurous, include the wider community. You can advertise your book swap in various places including compound or school notice boards, kids play venues or social media sites and forums aimed at families, e.g., the Doha Mums forum.
Make sure to have simple rules for swapping, for example, books must be in reasonable condition, suit the same age range (e.g., toddlers or preschoolers) and equal to the number of books exchanged. Moreover, don’t forget to organise your book swap on days and at times when parents and their children can attend (i.e., weekends and after school hours).
If you are feeling motivated, you could organise activities to run alongside your book swap such as storytelling, making book marks, writing book reviews or other reading-related activities.
Ready to read
Whatever your children's ages are or your preference for digital or printed media, books are a fantastic way to educate, stimulate and occupy our youngsters' minds. Though there are limited libraries in Doha for children, those that are available provide numerous books to read in safe, vibrant and educational environments for children to learn and use their imaginations. Take the opportunity to visit and immerse yourselves and your children in learning that is creative and fun.