The ‘We Love Reading’ programme from Jordan that uses digital technology to spread the love of reading has been awarded the 2017 UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize.
Concerned about the lack of libraries in Jordan, Rana Dajani, the founder of the ‘We Love Reading’, started the programme in 2006 with the vision of creating a library in every neighbourhood. She wanted to plant the seed for the love of reading in children, and to create the possibility of sustaining access to education in circumstances where formal learning was not possible.
“Literacy expands our horizons to discover the world around us and the inner potential inside us so that we can become change makers and draw upon the courage of the heroes we read about,” she says, explaining her motivation for starting the initiative.
The programme has since expanded to 30 countries around the world and involves 1,000 libraries in 12 governorates in Jordan.
In 2016, around 20,000 learners, among whom 60 % are women, benefited from the programme.
The programme uses a grassroots mode, which involves volunteers organizing regular read-aloud sessions in public community spaces by the use of age-appropriate books that are attractive, neutral content-wise and in local languages.
A virtual community has been created through a mobile application that connects all of the ‘We Love Reading’ volunteers. The application allows them to share experiences and exchange knowledge to provide and improve the sustainability, quality, monitoring and evaluation of the programme. It also offers online training for volunteers and parents on how to appropriately assist children to read aloud, and provide a digital library with children’s literature.
Empowering the refugee community through reading
The ‘We Love Reading’ model has been implemented by other communities and under circumstances where formal education has been put on hold such as in refugee camps. Through the programme, refugee community members are empowered by taking charge of the reading circles within the community, and by filling the gap until proper education systems are put into place, which in some circumstances can take months.
“After the training, I started reading stories to the children at the community Centre,” said Gassan, a young boy from Syria who now lives in a Jordanian refugee camp, the Baqaa camp. “They loved the stories and shared them with their families, which caused the crowd to get bigger and bigger. I was really amazed by the influence that reading left on children. Now, we have launched an initiative in collaboration with the community centre manager to clean the streets of the camp. With this initiative, I can tell that the influence of reading has spread not only on children but also on the community around us!”
Rana Dajani supports this idea of encouraging individuals to be change makers, by creating an environment that fosters free thinking and social entrepreneurship. “Literacy helps us learn about others so we understand more and communicate better with each other to build together a better future,” she says. “By providing recognition, credibility and visibility, the Prize will help spread ‘We Love Reading’ around the world to become a social movement and foster the love of reading in every child in every neighbourhood.”
This year’s UNESCO International Literacy Prizes will be awarded to laureates from Canada, Colombia, Jordan, Pakistan and South Africa on the occasion of International Literacy Day, celebrated on 8 September. The prize-giving ceremony will be organized at UNESCO Headquarters and be part of the global event. This year’s Literacy Prizes will focus on Literacy in a digital world.