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, for travellers and for those 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 full of books, paging through colourful illustrations or the scent of the ink and pages of a book. As children develop, they progress through reading levels at an astonishing rate, and the types of books that interest them change fairly rapidly. 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 four public children’s 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 infants to young teens—there’s even a selection of parenting books for mums and dads. Books are available in a variety of languages including Arabic, English, Spanish, French, Dutch and Korean.
Access to the library is limited to members of the Doha Mums community and it is run entirely by volunteers. 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.
If you’re interested in volunteering at the library, contact them at email@example.com—teen volunteers are also welcome.
Hours vary. Check the Doha Mums events calendar for up and coming hours.
Annual membership is QR 120 per family, which entitles each child to borrow five books for up to four weeks. The annual membership fee for the Doha Mums community is an additional QR 150. Visit dohamums.com/faq to learn more about joining Doha Mums.
Maktaba Children’s Library
Maktaba is a bright, cheerful and comfortable venue where parents and children can read books and take part in a myriad of activities. 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 as well as regular arts and crafts, gardening activities, cooking lessons, costume parties and Arabic immersion playdates. There are sensory playgroups for babies and toddlers, homework help for older kids and a variety of summer and afterschool workshops. The library also offers activities and clubs for mums and dads.
Al Mabahej and Saha 33, Onaiza, West Bay near Doha Exhibition Centre
Search the catalog at maktaba.follettdestiny.com
Saturday to Thursday 09:00–17:00
Check their Facebook page for the most up-to-date events information.
Access to the library, afternoon storytelling and various community 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 entitles the family to borrow three books for up to two weeks, or QR 750 for six books every two weeks. 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 (MIA) 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 with plans to grow. Available literature includes storybooks, art history, art activities, culture, history, science and general reference. Books are generally available in Arabic or English, but publications in a number of other languages can also be found.
In addition to the library and museum, children can enjoy a number of activities whilst on site, including educational games, writing book reviews for the “book review tree”, and a variety of creative activities. Additionally, the library holds monthly story time sessions for three- to five-year-olds in Arabic and English. RSVP for the monthly storytime sessions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The museum has a café and a restaurant ideal for hungry and thirsty young readers.
1st Floor of the Education Wing, Museum of Islamic Art, Al Corniche Street
Sunday, Monday, Wednesday 10:30–17:30; Tuesday closed; Thursday to Saturday, 12:00–20:00
Qatar National Library
Though not open yet, the Qatar National Library expects to boast a children’s library with 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. In the meantime, check the library’s website for a wide range of free online resources.
Education City, the area between Al Luqta Street on the Dukhan Highway and Huwar Street
To be confirmed once the library has opened
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 within their school. If you do have children attending school, kindergarten through to secondary, it is worth enquiring about their policies on public access and external borrowing.
Maktabty is a bright and colourful bookshop and activity centre located in Villaggio Mall. Founded by the Childhood Cultural Centre to promote literacy through reading and creative activities, it is a not-for-profit enterprise, which sells books at wholesale prices and offers free access to a variety of activities and workshops and a limited number of books which can be read on-site. The majority of literature is in Arabic, but a small number of English books are 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. Future plans for the centre include a cinema showing National Geographic Kids and other educational programmes.
Villaggio Mall (next to Gondolania), Al Waab
Saturday to Thursday 10:00–22:00; Friday 16:00–22:00
Create your own book swap
If the above libraries are difficult for you to access, you can always organise your own book swap. The idea is a simple one: bring books and swap them at a local venue, which could be a coffee shop, a family room within your compound or in 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, with families in your own compound, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, include the local or wider community. You can advertise your book swap in various places, including compound notice boards, school notice boards, kids play venues or specific social media sites or forums aimed at families i.e. the Doha Mums forum.
Make sure to have simple rules for swapping, such as, books being swapped should be in reasonable condition, suit the age range of your target audience (i.e. toddlers, preschoolers, etc.) and equal the number of books being taken away from the swap. And, don’t forget to organise your book swap on days and at times when parents and their children can attend (i.e. weekends and out of school hours).
If you are really feeling motivated, you could organise activities running alongside your book swap event, such as storytelling, making book marks, book reviews, etc.
Ready to read
Whatever age your children 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 not only books to read, but 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’s creative and fun.