A Library in Every Neighborhood
In 2010, We Love Reading (WLR) committed to opening 100 neighborhood-based libraries throughout Jordan in order to actively encourage each community to share in the experience of reading. These libraries will help foster a lifelong enthusiasm for reading and acquiring new knowledge among children in a sustainable and cost-efficient way.
APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
A key lever in fostering a love of reading is being read to by a model reader. In the West, this is often a parent, teacher, or librarian. Although these individuals are present in the Middle East, there is not a culturally embedded sense of enthusiasm for reading aloud, and many parents can’t read at all. Therefore, merely having books available is not enough to ensure that a love for reading is instilled. In order to ensure success and ease of implementation under difficult circumstances, we have developed a model which will serve as a guide to setting up new community libraries in the region. The basic process for developing the program in a community consists of the following:
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 as many books as can be easily gathered.
3. Train a storyteller on storytelling techniques such as how to change voice while reading aloud to embody the characters of the story and how to capture the children’s attention. The training also includes the values and benefits of reading aloud and the philosophy and tenets of the model of ‘We Love Reading’. These training sessions are highly interactive and are conducted by professional storytellers in groups of 15 -20 trainees for two days.
4. Host storytelling sessions at the libraries 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 providing them with the confidence and skills they need to successfully expand ‘We Love Reading’ into their own neighborhoods with minimal guidance and 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 enthusiastic young participants.
IMPLEMENTATION, TIMELINE, AND DELIVERABLES
We Love Reading committed to do the following over the next five years:
– Establish 10 centers of civic engagement in various parts of the Kingdom to encourage children to read for pleasure. These centers would serve as focal points for training and follow up on the storytellers in the vicinity.
– Establish a network of storytellers across Jordan.
– Disseminate knowledge about the ‘We Love Reading’ model by publicizing ‘We Love Reading’ in as many media venues as possible in order to encourage reading for pleasure among the Jordanian population.
– Forge partnerships across different sectors.
– Hold a biannual conference to encourage reading and promote the long-term sustainability of the libraries.
– Reach out to neighboring countries in the Middle East to implement the neighborhood library model. These countries include: Iraq, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Tunis, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates. This will be done through visits to these countries and forging partnerships with organizations in those countries that could adopt and implement the ‘We Love Reading’ model.
Reading is essential to the development of a child’s personality, imagination, and communication skills. Children must learn to love and enjoy reading to reap its benefits. Children of the Arab world and Jordan in particular are not readers for many reasons such as lack of appropriate books. A survey conducted by Arabia News estimated that the average number of pages read in the Middle East is only half a page a year, while in the United States it is 11 books a year.
We Love Reading aims to positively impact children throughout Jordan and the Arab world by creating a generation of children that love, enjoy, and respect books through the establishment of a library in every neighborhood in the Arab world. The new libraries will train individuals from the neighborhoods in which they are located to read aloud to children four to ten years old, utilizing age-appropriate reading material. Significant numbers of adults trained in proper read aloud techniques will lead to the creation of informal and sustainable networks of model readers that will inspire children and the communities in which they are raised to read and learn more.
We Love reading (WLR) had 100 libraries when it joined CGI. WLR had committed in 2010 to open an additional 100 libraries over the period of five years, from 2010-2015, to reach a total of 200 libraries. By the end of 2013, WLR exceeded its commitment and has established 300 libraries all over Jordan.
WLR has trained 700 women, created 300 libraries in Jordan alone, and directly impacted 10,000 children, 60% of which are girls. In addition, WLR has indirectly impacted 50,000 individuals in Jordan alone, and 100,000 individuals worldwide.
WLR has developed 12 childrens’ books in Arabic on energy, water conservation and littering, that are available in our libraries. WLR has shown that reading books does have a strong impact on individuals and their development.
WLR is changing attitudes and letting people know that reading is fun. WLR depends on networks of women who already participate in a movement to bring about social and cultural change through reading.
In the short term, the program stimulates creativity in children, especially girls, since girls have fewer opportunities to participate in social events. Furthermore, this program boosts women readers’ confidence to manage the libraries by empowering them to become community leaders.
As for long term impact, the program is working to create a generation of girls that will become empowered mothers, while enhancing female volunteerism, independence, advocacy. In addition, this program strives to redefine a women’s overall role in society. WLR mission is to have a library in every neighborhood in Jordan, and eventually the rest of the world. . WLR is an ongoing program until every child is reached.
WLR provides a network of libraries that have access to the grass roots of any community. These libraries serve as platforms for effective dissemination of any behavior attitude such as conservation of energy , water love, forgiveness compassion, health and hygiene. The challenge for most organizations, whose objective is spreading good practices, is gaining the trust of the community in which they work.