Known to be one of the top 20 influential muslim female scientists in the world (according to Muslim Science Magazine), a very unique woman Dr. Rana Dajani who not only believes in change but works towards it. Her motto in life “There is no hope for a nation that does not read”, she is the founder of “We love reading” an organization that started from Jordan and extended to 14 other countries till now. Their vision is to have a society that loves to read at any time and any place. Their goal is to establish a library in every neighborhood in the Arab world, by training individuals to read out loud to 4 – 10 year old children from local communities. They provide reading material that is fun and age appropriate making it more enjoyable for children so they grow to love reading to reap its benefits.
How did this idea come about? And how did it evolve? And what challenges were faced?
Dr. Rana Dajani now an assistant professor at the Hashemite University in Jordan, talked to us about her journey, “After having my four children I got a doctorate scholarship in the USA, and with the support of my husband during those hectic times I’ve earned my degree, then I decided to return to my homeland Jordan to be of service to my country. Once back home I faced a problem with my children whom have a passion for reading and spending time in public libraries, we realized that there are no libraries in Jordan, so we took it upon ourselves to make our own library. I started in my own house gathering children from our neighborhood and read to them, I wanted to create a bond between books and children. I felt an obligation and responsibility to share and benefit others with the knowledge I have gained throughout the years.
In 2006 I started to expand on my idea to include more children, but this needed a bigger public space for our reading sessions. We figured that every neighborhood had a mosque so the place was secured. Then we got some charity money and went around the bookstores looking for books in Arabic for children that were appealing in terms of context, illustrations and language. The idea was announced by the Imam Masjid after Friday prayer and this gave the community trust to send their children every Saturday for reading time.
I began reading Arabic stories to the children and gave them a choice to pick what they wish to read more of at home and to be returned back the following week. I conveyed that I trusted them and in turn this gives the child a sense of responsibility to take good care of the books. This is how we began to encourage the love for books and reading, which help build self-esteem and confidence not only that but also this creates a bond with the mosque which will remain in their memory as a place to gather for worship and for education in a fun way.
Our project continued to grow and we felt the need to spread this in neighboring communities and cities worldwide, in mosques, churches or even under a shade of a tree, like what is happening now in Uganda. Let us gather children and read to them out loud, reading adds to a child’s personality and mental progress and imagination, and helps with their communication skills. There isn’t a child that does not love to read, he just didn’t find his favorite book yet.
Now we are in the process of training young men and women who like to volunteer to follow suit by setting their own libraries in their community, and teaching them how to read out loud to children in an enthusiastic way. This way we serve every community and help a new generation grow up with the love for reading. We train our volunteers to evolve and build strong personalities and work with a team spirit and this in turn will help them in their jobs and future careers.
The western solutions for problems will not fit in our culture and traditions, and change cannot happen from outside but from the inside with hardworking men and women whom love their homeland. Unfortunately there is a lack of social advancement projects in our countries and we have to learn from trial and error. Western societies were unfair to the woman when they placed upon her shoulders the burden to have the same standards as men to be successful. The woman is very giving but for her success there are a set of totally different requirements.
And now with God’s help we are reaping success of our efforts, we aim to make reading a way to instill good behavior and manners. With the help of writing experts and illustrators in Jordan we have published amazing books that help in promoting good manners and staying away from negative behavior that affects the individual and community as a whole. The efforts are minimal compared to the results reaped.”
To find out more about this remarkable project go to http://www.welovereading.org