“Reading did a lot to make me a change-maker and to think outside the box,” says Dajani
We Love Reading begins the way many journeys end—with a homecoming. When Dr. Rana Dajani, the founder of We Love Reading, returned to Jordan after spending five years abroad, she saw her country with new eyes. During her time abroad, Rana worked extensively with a public library and grew fond of reading with her children. However, she realized that not only were there few libraries in Jordan, but also that Jordanian children didn’t typically read for pleasure. They read for educational and religious purposes rather than for joy or entertainment. This lack of reading extended across the Arab world and many developing countries.
“Reading did a lot to make me a change-maker and to think outside the box,” says Dajani, who has always been a book-lover and avid reader. But when she returned to Jordan in 2005, after getting her doctorate in molecular cell biology at the University of Iowa, she noticed that children weren’t reading for fun.
Being scientifically minded, she tried to understand why reading for pleasure was not a habit and found that it was because many parents didn’t read to their children. “When parents read to their kids, there is an association between security and happiness and reading. Children grow up loving to read,” she says.
Her personal project turned into an organization in 2009, when she won the Synergos Award for Arab social innovators. The prize helped her finance a program to train others to read aloud and to encourage volunteers to build libraries throughout Jordan. Instead of just providing access to books, her scheme, We Love Reading, focuses on building literary capacity and motivating children.
We Love Reading has been particularly successful among vulnerable communities. Reading is proving to be a valuable tool to help refugee children build resilience and cope with hardship. For children with disabilities, it’s also a way of gaining confidence and promoting inclusion.