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There are three girls in the King’s Academy Middle School who consider reading and writing their favorite hobbies. Sarah Saleh ’23 who has devoured more books than any other King’s Middle Schooler, Joud Mbaideen ’22 who has already published her own book, and Lara AbuAli ’23, the first King’s student to receive a Gold Key award for her poetry chapbook.

Sarah Saleh ’23

At 5 years old — the age that most children are barely able to comprehend text — Sara Saleh ’23 was reading books on her own. Saleh’s love for reading began when she was introduced to a small library at her aunt’s home.

Now an 11-year-old seventh grader in the Middle School, Saleh has read more than 90 books since the beginning of the school year — mostly novels, often series. Among her favorite series are the Vampire Academy, Nightshade and Canterwood Crest.

“When I enrolled at King’s, my reading habit increased because there are so many books to choose from at the library and I love going there to look through all the books,” says Saleh.

Despite her busy schedule in the Middle School, Saleh makes sure to find time to read wherever she goes. She mostly reads on the bus in the morning and on her way home from school — even though most people around her spend the bus ride talking — and every night before she sleeps.

Saleh believes that children should develop a reading habit at a young age because it helps them expand their vocabulary and gain information about different topics. Although she realizes that many children haven’t learned to enjoy reading, Saleh believes that children should find books about topics that interest them because if “you don’t like the topic, you won’t enjoy the book.”

“When I don’t know the meaning of a word, the first thing I do is look at the sentence and try to make sense of the word and then I research it to understand the full meaning; it’s my favorite thing to do,” says Saleh.

Joud Mbaideen ’22

At only 12 years old, Joud Mbaideen ’22 published her own novel, making her the youngest author in the Arab World. 

Mbaideen’s passion for writing was sparked in the fifth grade when she participated in a writing and reading competition. She earned eighth place in the competition and has been passionately writing ever since. Mbaideen constantly reads a wide array of English and Arabic books to help her develop her writing skills because, she says, “the more you read, the more words you’ll know and the better you’ll write.”

Over the past few years, the Syrian civil war, especially the image of the drowned 3-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi, deeply affected Mbaideen and inspired her to write her first novel, Juruh Al Yasmeen. The novel, which is in Arabic, is the story of a young Syrian girl and her family who are separated due to the civil war. In it, Mbaideen focuses on the devastating effects of war on children.

Not long after her book was published in 2017, Mbaideen became recognized for her literary talents in Jordan and across the region. During Jordan’s Independence Day celebrations last May, she was awarded the King Abdullah II Medal of Merit, and in October, Head of UNICEF Jordan Rob Jenkins named her as a “Champion for Children” with an “enormous capacity to contribute to learning.” Mbaideen has also been interviewed by over 80 radio and television channels.

“When I first started writing my book, my goal was to publish it but I never thought that so many opportunities would arise for me after it was published,” says Mbaideen, who is currently writing a second book, one that continues the journey of the characters in Juruh Al Yasmeen.

“I want my next novel to focus on the future of refugee children; it’s one of the biggest problems in our world today and I want to make sure people are aware of it,” says Mbaideen.

Lara AbuAli ’23

Chosen from among more than 346,000 submissions, Lara AbuAli ’23’s poetry chapbook “Sleepless,” won a scholastic Gold Key award. AbuAli was recognized by the Region-at-Large program of the 2018 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Her work was selected as “the most outstanding work submitted in your region.”

AbuAli’s love of writing began at the early age of four when she was introduced to picture books. “Every time I looked at different pictures, I became inspired to write stories about the things I was seeing and I’ve been writing ever since,” says AbuAli.

Her poetry chapbook “Sleepless” is her “personal vision of life itself” and offers an inside perspective of her past and present, as well as her views on society and the “uniqueness of the earth.” The title comes from her last poem, “Sleepless,” which is about the stress that school can cause and the “tired reality of students during one of the most important times of their lives.” “The poems I wrote are my way of describing the simplicities and depth of different things in life,” says AbuAli.

After she wrote her poem book, AbuAli decided to apply for the Gold Key award but never imagined she would actually win. “I was shocked to hear that I won because so many people applied for it — so many older people who are much more experienced than I am,” she adds.