Lebanon has the Arab world's most avid readers, according to the newly launched Arab Reading Index (ARI).

The average Lebanese reads for 59 hours and finishes 29 books annually, based on a sample from 17,561 participants. The ARI indicates a 94% literacy rate in Lebanon.

The average Arab reads for 35 hours a year. 

Lebanon is followed by Egypt, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, in that order. 

The results of the ARI were announced this week at the 2016 Knowledge Summit that was held in Dubai and organized by the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation (MBRF).

The study is considered the largest research study to focus on reading in the region.

The index is based on three factors: extent of reading, access to reading material and personal attitudes towards the significance of reading.

The study reached up to 148,000 respondents from all 22 countries in the Arab League. It initially aimed to involve around 25,000 participants,

Lebanon topped the list with 59 hours of reading per year, a 90% ARI score

The study revealed that people in Lebanon tend to spend more time reading extra-curricular or non-work-related material. They also read double the number of Arabic books than foreign-language books.

Additionally, the study found that Lebanese people greatly consider reading essential to living.

According to The National, Lebanese Minister of Education and Higher Education Elias Bou Saab called on Arab heads of state to throw more weight into promoting reading. 

Arabs read an average of 35 hours per year

While the number roughly equates to a week's worth of working hours, it debunks a previous report claiming an average Arab reads a quarter of a page per year. 

The 35 hours include 15 hours of reading done for an educational degree. 

"We had always heard these statistics being cited, claiming that Arabs only read six minutes on average every year and that, statistically, it takes 80 Arabs to read one book every year," said the managing director of the MBRF Jamal bin Huwaireb, according to Gulf Business.

"We were very skeptical and sought to determine the source of these statistics only to find that there was virtually no sound evidence to support them."

The index found that Arabs read around 16 books annually, seven of which are read at schools and universities. These include an average of 11 Arabic books.

Egypt, Morocco among the top 10

Egypt claimed second place, scoring 89% on the ARI. The index revealed that Egyptians read for 64 hours annually and complete 27 books on average. 

Morocco follows with an 87% index, as Moroccans read for about 57 hours each year. Meanwhile, the UAE's 81% score placed it in fourth place, with an average of 51 hours spent reading annually.

In fifth place, Jordan scored 71% on the ARI. The average time Jordanians spend reading is 50 hours per year.

Jordan is followed by Tunisia (70%), Qatar (64%), KSA (63%), Bahrain (58%) and Palestine (54%).