We Love Reading
We Love Reading
Reading is essential for the development of children’s personalities, imaginations and cognitive skills, yet children do not read for pleasure in the Arab world, not for lack of books but for lack of being read to by their parents. We Love Reading (WLR) aims to encourage children to read for pleasure by training women to read aloud to children in their neighborhoods. These read-aloud sessions are the WLR libraries. The model is innovative because it is simple, cost-effective, grassroots and sustainable. WLR has trained 700 women and opened 300 libraries in Jordan, impacting more than 10,000 children. The model has spread throughout the Arab world and beyond.
Although reading is essential to the development of children’s personalities, imaginations and cognitive skills, children in the Arab world do not read for pleasure. Arabia News estimated the number of pages read for pleasure in the Middle East at 0.5 per year, while for the USA it is 11 books per year. This has a negative impact on education systems in the Middle East region. Children must learn to love and enjoy reading to reap its benefits. Many programs that attempted to improve reading levels by providing books have failed. Research has shown that reading aloud is key in fostering the love of reading.
Through reading, children draw upon the experience of others to recognize problems in their own community, the skills of others to develop solutions, and the courage of others to implement solutions in their communities. Through reading, children learn about other cultures and peoples and begin to respect and understand and accept others, leading to less conflict and more peace in the world because of better communication. A literate society is essential for economic development and social integration. Children must learn to love and enjoy reading to reap its benefits. Reading is a critical and necessary precondition for skills development.
Parents, teachers or librarians in the Arab world lack reading skills and habits. We Love Reading has developed an innovative model that provides a practical, cost-effective, sustainable, grassroots approach that involves women and the community to increase reading levels among children aged 4 to 10 by focusing on the read-aloud experience to instill the love of reading. The program involves training local women to hold read-aloud sessions in public spaces in their neighborhoods where books are routinely read aloud to children. This is the WLR “library”.
In terms of impact, We Love Reading is changing attitudes and letting people know that reading is fun. It depends on networks of women, who already resemble a movement, to bring about social and cultural change through reading. In the short term, the program stimulates creativity in children - especially girls, since girls have fewer opportunities to participate in social events - and boosts women readers’ confidence to manage the libraries, empowering them to become community leaders. In the longer term, the program advances a skilled and creative generation of girls that will become empowered mothers, while enhancing female volunteerism, independence and advocacy, and redefining women’s role, ownership, and respect.
In the coming years, the project aims to:
1. Raise awareness of the importance of reading and spread the project model through the Arab world and worldwide.
2. Evaluate the impact of the WLR model on children.
3. Implement the model in the Syrian refugee communities in Jordan.
4. Explore using WLR libraries as platforms for changing behavior towards peace and conflict resolution through reading.
The project seeks to achieve the above by:
1. Developing a comprehensive toolkit that includes a training package and a video on how to read aloud and how to start a library in a local neighborhood. The initiative hopes to make this toolkit available online in many languages.
2. Collaborating with JPAL poverty action lab/MIT to evaluate its model. It is sending two team members to be trained as evaluators to do the evaluation.
3. Starting a WLR pilot in the Zaatari camp that it hopes will help obtain funding to implement the model across the Syrian refugee communities.
4. Providing children's books that focus on peace and conflict resolution and are culturally sensitive to be read in WLR libraries.