We Love Reading

We Love Reading

Jordan
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Budget: 
< $1,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

"We Love Reading" focuses on instilling a sincere and deep love of reading into Arab children from an early age. We seek to establish community libraries and storytelling events in neighborhoods across the Arab World making reading fun and interesting to kids of all ages.

We believe that there isn't any child who doesn't like to read - there are just kids who haven't found the right book!

About You
Organization:
We Love Reading
Visit website
Section 1: About You
First Name

Rana

Last Name

Dajani

Country
Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Yes

Organization Name

We Love Reading

Organization Phone

+962799746340

Organization Address

Amman, Jordan

Organization Country
How long has this organization been operating?

1‐5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, XX

Innovation
What makes your innovation unique?

"We Love Reading" is a unique initiative in the region for many different reasons.

Although community service in most developed countries is encouraged and well-organized, the idea of community involvement and volunteerism is a new concept in Jordan - especially for women! Through our initiative, women who have never experienced importance or valued outside of their homes are being empowered to become active and productive members of their communities.

Another aspect that makes our initiative unique is that our storytelling sessions take place in local mosques. Traditionally, mosques in the region have been reserved for men and only utilized for prayers and a few religious lectures throughout the week. By implementing our initiative in the mosques, we are essentially turning them into community centers and opening the doors for everyone in the community - including women and children.

In addition, the idea of children being read to in "storytime" fashion is a new concept. Reading, traditionally has been considered boring or a waste of time outside of academic or religious contexts. Now, we are trying to change attitudes and let people know that reading can be done "just for fun".

Do you have a patent for this idea?

Impact
Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact

The biggest impact of "We Love Reading" is evident in our most important stakeholders - the children themselves. Over and over, we hear stories from parents whose children drag them out of bed to attend one of our storytelling sessions on a Saturday morning. In addition to the love of reading, the children have developed their own culture of literacy among themselves. Children discuss the books they have read before storytime and recommend new books and specific authors to their friends. This is definately something new. Most of the children recognize and can name more authors than their parents!

In addition, the impact has reached into the community and its members. To date, "We Love Reading" has trained two hundred storytellers, including seventy librarians, thirty specialists for special-education centers, and fifty university students, who together reach over two thousand children in Jordan. As a result, twenty-five permanent libraries have been established in Amman, the Jordan Valley, and the Northern regions of the country.

Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing

Among other benefits, reading opens the door to knowledge and understanding, broadens minds and fosters respect for others and gives hope for change. Unfortunately, a recent survey estimated that the number of pages read in the Middle East is half a page per year while people living in the United States read an average of 11 books per year. With descrepencies like these, it will be a lifetime before the East catches up to the West and hope for mutual understanding and acceptance diminishes with each book unread.

"We Love Reading" hopes to bridge this gap by instilling a love of reading in Middle Eastern children from an early age by providing age-appropriate, interesting reading material presented in a fun and exciting way. By planting this seed we hope to be a major change agent in the attitudes of children in the region towards the importance of reading which, in turn, will have a major impact on the attitude of tomorrow's leaders.

Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. Include a description of the business model. What might prevent that success?

A key issue in fostering the love of reading is being read to. In the west, this could be a parent, teacher or librarian. Although these individuals are present in the Middle East, the culture has not successfully embedded a sense of enthusiasm for reading aloud on many and in the case of parents many can't read at all. Therefore, having books available is not enough to ensure our success. In order to ensure success and ease of implementation under difficult circumstances, we have developed a model which will serve as guide to setting up new community libraries in the region. The basic process for developing the program in a community includes:

1. Identify a central location that is easily accessible by neighborhood children, such as a mosque or community center.
2. Secure books for the library through donations from individuals or organizations. There can be as few or many books as can be easily gathered.
3. Train a storyteller on storytelling techniques through "We Love Reading"
4. Have a storytelling session every other weekend

Sustainability is built into our business model through capacity building at the level of the local citizen. By providing program development training to local women and girls we are instilling them with the confidence and skills they need to successfully expand "We Love Reading" into their own local neighborhoods with minimal guidance and few resources.

Overall, the model is easily replicable, particularly in rural areas, as the only requirements are a trained storyteller, a collection of children’s books, a comfortable location, and some enthusiastic young participants.

Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible

For each of the next three years, 2010-2012, we expect to train 150 storytellers and open a minimum of 50 libraries. By the end of 2012, we anticipate having 650 storytellers and have a 175 libraries located across Jordan. In addition, we plan to hold a yearly Storytellers Conference to help ensure sustainability.

We will also continue establishing collaborations and partnerships with local and international publishers, organizations, and government agencies to help spread awareness of the "We Love Reading" initiative.

Regionally, by 2012, we hope to expand to Turkey, UAE, and Tunisia. Locally, during the same time period, our partnership with ARAMEX and Ruwwad Community Centers will have expanded to 8 of the 12 governorates in Jordan reaching at least 100,000 children. In addition, our partnership with Scholastic and Dar Al Manhal will have provided over 20,000 children access to appropriate reading material.

How many people will your project serve annually?

1001‐10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$100 ‐ 1000

Does your innovation seek to have an impact on public policy?

No

If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?

Approximately 150 words left (1200 characters).

Sustainability
What stage is your Social Enterprise in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?

No

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with NGOs?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with businesses?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with government?

No

Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your Social Enterprise

We currently have partnerships and/or collaborations with the following organizations:

Save the Children
Synergos
Scholastic International
Clinton Global Initiative (Complimentary Member)
US Embassy in Jordan (Arabic Book Program)
Injaz (Junior Achievement)
Women's Microfund
International Reading Association
ARAMEX (Ruwwad Community Center)
Dar Al Manhal
Mother Child Education Foundation
Husnu Ozyegin Foundation

With our current partnerships - locally, regionally and internationally - we have access to a global audience. In turn, the possibility for funding and collaboration with new partners in exponentially increased. We are firm believers in "strength in numbers" and know that we would not have achieved the milestones that we have without support from bigger and stronger partners. In addition, our partnerships with other regional organizations will ease our expansion into these countries during the coming 3 year period.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

Although we have been operating in local communities since 2006, we recently obtained legal NGO status enabling us to have greater access to funders and expand our project across the country.

Currently, our main source of income is from a grant awarded through Synergos for 2009-2010 for the Arab World Innovators Award. In addition, we also recieve small donations from local organizations and individuals.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

Although I am now permanently residing in Jordan, I lived in the United States for several years where I became involved in the public library in my community. When my family and I returned to my native Jordan, I felt a great loss when I realized that there was not a public library system available for my children. Neighborhood children were spending all their free time playing in the streets and reading was not encouraged outside of school.

I feel strongly that along with knowledge and understanding comes responsibility. Since I knew the importance of reading, I felt that if I didn’t do something to spread this knowledge, I would be letting down the children in my neighborhood and all across Jordan. I felt an unwavering need to take action. I didn’t wait for help. I didn’t look for others to blame. I took it upon myself to make the change. In the words of Ghandi, I chose to “be the change you want to see in the world.”

Because of this, I set out on the endeavor of opening my own library in my local neighborhood. This soon turned into a dream of establishing a library in each and every neighborhood across Jordan. Hence, the "We Love Reading" initiative was born!

I have been told that one person cannot make a difference. I say that the road of a thousand miles starts with one step and if a butterfly waves its wings in China a hurricane happens in the Atlantic. I believe that nothing is impossible. If we believe – it will happen.

Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.

While in the US, my children used to go to the library to spend their free time, but where I currently live, there are no libraries, so I just kept on buying books for them.

With the passage of time, I realized that children in the neighbourhood waste their time playing in the streets and that they do not read. Keen to change the situation and encourage children to read, three years ago I launched a project called "We Love Reading".

I started holding reading sessions twice a month in a nearby mosque for my children and 60 others, ranging in age from 4 to 10.

To be able to have more children attend the activity, I worked to raise awareness among the residents of the area on the importance of reading and started collecting simple donations to buy short stories to read to the children. My projects have expanded and now they cover areas in Amman, the Jordan Valley and the northern regions.

I have also trained 20 women, with the help of the Children‘s Museum, in storytelling, to be able to narrate stories in an attractive way for children.

At the beginning of the project, I faced rejection, objection and lack of interest among families, but they soon started to support me, which motivated me to continue the project.

Recently, I was interviewed by local television, radio, and newspapers to discuss my innovative work and the impact I am making on the lives of children. A short documentary film was made about my work to increase awareness of early childhood reading.

In addition to being a civic leader, I currently works as an assistant professor in the Biology Department at the Hashemite University in Jordan.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Friend or family member

If through another source, please provide the information

I heard about Changemakers from a friend who works at another Jordanian organization, Women in Technology.

randomness