News / Middle East

Grassroots Libraries Promote Love of Reading

After living in the US, Professor Rana Dajani went home to create dozens of libraries in neighborhoods across Jordan

Rana Dajani began her library program by reading to children in a neighborhoodl mosque in her native Jordan.
Rana Dajani began her library program by reading to children in a neighborhoodl mosque in her native Jordan.
Faiza Elmasry

During the five years Jordanian Rana Dajani and her family lived in the United States, the local public library was a big part of the family's life.

"When I was doing my PhD in the United States, on a Fulbright scholarship, I used to spend all my evenings with my mice in the lab and my children - I have four children - they spent all their time in the public library," she says. "It's full of not just books, but activities, volunteerism, read-aloud [sessions], puppet shows and so on."

No libraries

She says that's why, when the family moved back to Jordan, the public library was what they all missed the most.

"We realized there were no libraries and if they were, they were very few," she says. "Most importantly, they didn't have any activities. We looked at the statistics and it turned out that the number of pages read in the Middle East per year is half a page, compared to the U.S. where it is 11 books per year.  When I say reading, I mean reading for pleasure, not reading of education because the education level in Jordan is pretty high. We're talking about reading that creates imagination, thinking outside the box, that there is more to life than my immediate environment, that there are other solutions out there."

Dajani, a biology professor at the Hashemite University in Jordan,  looked closely at the problem to figure out why children in Jordan do not read.

"The reason they don't read was not for lack of books, but most important it's for lack of experience," she explains. "Nobody reads to them. In order to plant the love of reading, you have to read to your children at an early age. Nobody does that. It's not a habit in Jordan."

We Love Reading

So, with the encouragement and help of her children, Dajani took it upon herself to create a public library in their neighborhood. In 2006, she began holding story-telling sessions for 8 to 10-year olds in a nearby mosque.

"We announced through the Friday prayers that there was going to be a read-aloud on Saturday morning," she says. "So the parents dragged their children, but after that, the children were coming by themselves. They would wake up really early in the morning and say, 'We want to go to the story telling, we want to listen to the stories.'"

After each story-telling session, the children are allowed to check out a copy of the book, take it home and read it with their parents. Dajani says that's how We Love Reading was born. The project has created a cadre of young readers in the neighborhood.

"The proof of this is that, when they line up to take the books home, they know the name of the authors," she says. "They recommend books to each other."

Reading, Dajani says, has had a positive impact on many aspects of the children's lives.

"First, they are off the street. It saves some lives," she says. "On the educational level, these children will be doing better in school. Reading will provide them with a greater vocabulary. So they will hopefully be writers in the future because it is a circle - the more readers you have, the more writers you have. And parents are so happy that the children are spending more time doing useful things and learning the enjoyment of reading because nothing can substitute for that, not TV, not the Internet, just to enjoy the written word."

Furthering the dream

Dajani's dream - to see the We Love Reading project expand beyond her neighborhood - became a reality a few years later.

"In 2008, I won an award from Synergos, which is a New York-based organization that fights poverty and injustice in the world. They have started a program called 'The Arab World Social innovators,'" she says. "So I won the award and that provided me with enough funding to be able to start a training program for ladies in their local neighborhood. We would train them how to read aloud. The fund also gave me the ability to buy them books. I would buy 20 books for every lady. We've trained 380 ladies. This training for the ladies hasn't just given them the ability to read aloud, it has empowered them to be civically and socially responsible outside their home."

Eighty local libraries have been established in communities throughout Jordan, serving more than 4,000 children.

Expanded opportunity

Dajani joined other activists, academics and private citizens from around the world at the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York. Each year the organization  - which was founded in 2005 by President Bill Clinton - brings together dozens of innovators who  work to solve community problems in sustainable and effective ways.

Dajani says her participation in the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative conference gave her the opportunity to further expand the program, and gain valuable insights into social activism.

"I met women from different areas of the world: from Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia," she says. "And we've actually set up partnerships with these different women, like they're planning to copy our model in Indonesia, Peru and, hopefully, in other Middle Eastern countries. On the other hand, I've also learned about how people are facing other problems, how people are working in teams to solve problems such as women's economic independence, such as environmental awareness. So it's been an eye-opener on how everybody plays a role in trying to make this world a better place for everyone."

During the conference, We Love Reading made a commitment to establish 100 more libraries throughout Jordan over the next five years. Visitors to Rana Dajani's website can learn how to create a library in their neighborhood.

You May Like

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid