Arab World Social Innovator
Rana Dajani, Jordan
Creating a library in every neighborhood to foster a love of reading among Jordanian children
Rana Dajani is working to foster a culture of literacy in Jordan, where the practice of reading for pleasure is uncommon. This phenomenon has contributed to a widening knowledge gap in the Arab world as avid readers generally have strong writing skills and contribute to the production of great works of literature. Community libraries are rare outside of urban hubs and Rana’s initiative, We Love Reading, seeks to introduce a local model in each community in Jordan.
Reading is vital to the development of a child’s personality, imagination, and communication skills. Children must learn to love and enjoy reading to reap its benefits. A survey conducted by Arabia News estimated that the average number of pages read in the Middle East is only half a page a year, while in the United States it is 11 books a year.
Rana began her work in 2006 at a community mosque where she held weekly storytelling sessions with children from ages four through ten to get them excited about the prospect of reading from a young age. The practice of storytelling associates reading with pleasure and shapes a child’s enthusiasm for reading that will hopefully follow them into their adult lives. After each interactive storytelling session, Rana allows children to check out books that they take home to read with their parents, passing the experience along from child to parent in an attempt to change attitudes towards reading. Since launching her program, Rana has been successful in cultivating a cadre of young readers who are enthusiastic about the practice and will have more educational and professional opportunities through the development of this skill.
We Love Reading has developed an innovative model to solve this problem in a sustainable and cost efficient way. Their model is comprised of training individuals from the neighborhoods in which they are located to read aloud to children 4 to 10 years-old, utilizing age-appropriate reading material. Significant numbers of adults trained in proper read aloud techniques will lead to the creation of informal and sustainable networks of model readers that will inspire children and the communities in which they are raised to read and learn more.
We Love Reading aims to positively impact children throughout Jordan and the Arab world by creating a generation of children that love, enjoy, and respect books through the establishment of a library in every neighborhood in the Arab world.
We Love Reading has trained 380 storytellers, all of them women. As a result 80 libraries have been established in various areas of Jordan reaching out to more than 4,000 children, 60% female and 40% male. These children have learned to read for pleasure. Our model has spread to Lebanon, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia. We Love Reading has received the Arab World Social innovator Award from Synergos and has partnered with Mercy Corps, Ruwwad (ARAMEX) and Injaz-Jordan.
In the next five years, and through the Clinton Global Initiative, We Love Reading is committed to establish 100 libraries throughout Jordan to actively encourage each community to share in the experience of reading. These libraries will help foster a lifelong enthusiasm for reading and acquiring new knowledge among children in a sustainable and cost efficient way.
It costs less than 50 dollars to make a child read forever.
Read a profile of Rana at VOANews.com.
- Read a profile of Rana’s work at the Ahel Al-Himmeh contest site.
- Watch Rana present her work at TEDx Red Sea
- Watch a video about A Library in Every Neighborhood (in Arabic).