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We Love Reading in Emergency

WLR aims to establish reading aloud circles run by local women volunteers to foster love of reading among girls in emergency situations

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What problem does your innovation solve?

In emergency situations it is difficult to set up education systems because of safety, practicality, cost, sustainability and lack of qualified personnel. Therefore many children stay out of school for indefinite periods. Even in cases where there is a school, it is not sustainable and girls don't attend because of culture, work, safety and ignorance. WLR provides a practical and scalable program that can be deployed anywhere addressing these issues.

Explain your innovation.

WLR is an innovative, practical, cost efficient, sustainable, grassroots program involving women and community to increase reading levels among children by focusing on the readaloud experience to plant love of reading. The program constitutes training local women volunters to hold readaloud sessions in public spaces in neighbourhoods where books are read aloud and exchanged with children. WLR chooses books that are age-appropriate, attractive, neutral in content, in the native language of the child. WLR empowers women readers to become leaders in their communities, builds ownership in children and community and serves as a platform for raising awareness on empathy, health and environment through books we have developed. The model can be replicated anywhere. It requires a few books that are read again and again. The woman who reads aloud doesn’t have to be highly educated and are required to “pay it forward”, by sharing newly acquired knowledge and training others to become readers creating a domino effect. The trained reader is welcomed because she is from the neighborhood, tailoring the model to fit her culture and needs. The community starts taking responsibility of the WLR library.  The program can be licensed to any organization to deploy within their location. Quality and sustainability are ensured through coach training and a virtual community connected through a mobile application

Who benefits?

Children (4-12) especially girls don't have access to educaiton systems attend the reading aloud sessions and take books home to share. The child is the champion for reading and able to catch up later when formal education system exist. WLR builds resilience because the child draws courage from heroes she reads about; boosts creativity, identity and confidence because reading is local and culturall relevant; builds bridges of communication between parent and child that alleviates mental stress from trauma, children are empathetic, less violent and will not be taken advantage of. WLR builds resilience in the women, who otherwise has no purpose waiting for something to happen, gives agency and purpose to have hope, a practical opportunity to serve giving dignity. Involving women in carrying out the solutions encourages them to send their children to school and support education. Girls don’t attend activities organized by social workers but locals know the right time and place for girls.

How is your innovation unique?

WLR depends on local women volunteers not employees running reading aloud sessions to keep children involved in reading inspite of no schools because we address the root cause. The women know the right time and place for girls to attend, the program is sustainable because the women are empowered to be leaders and supported by their communities. WLR makes the child the champion of reading by creating a desire in the child to read for fun and boosts identity through language and culture. WLR has devised a liscecning business model for sustainable, efficient and effective scaling that depends on partnering with organisations to deploy the program in their locations through coach training. We have created a virtual community network through a mobile application for sustainability and quality. he different statuses are based on gamfication theory and mean to incentivize and motivate the WLR ambassador. It is her agency, the goal she sets for herself, the journey she wants to take.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

We are piloting licencing the program to organizations to implement within their locations. the questions we struggle with are: 1. how can we market the license approach to different clients e.g. donors to fund, government to support, International NGOs to implement, local NGOs who don't have funds to pay for the licence? 2. Should we provide the books or make them available through a vendor? 3. how do we protect the copyright of our material 4. how to maintain quality and loyalty of the coaches we train? 5. what business model should we adopt? All the time we are struggling because we want to make the program free to all while maintaining the core needed to keep it running. We want to reach every child in the world.

Tell us more about you.

I am the founder of WLR. I have established an NGO as a legal entity for WLR in Jordan. We work with local CBOs to recruit volunteers to train to start WLR libraries in their neighbourhoods in Jordan. We have partnered successfully with PI, NRC, IRD, RI and UNHCR to pilot scaling WLR in emergency situations in Ethiopia and Syrian refugee camps. We are interested in partnering with international and local NGOs in Turkey, Australia and other countries to scale using our licensing approach.

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Natural disaster
  • Armed conflict
  • Prolonged displacement
  • Extreme drought

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

WLR is effective in: unsafe areas where no one can enter so the local people can take charge, where there is no formal education system and/or lack of trained educators where the local people can read aloud to the children in their native tongue, maintaining local culture. low cost does not require paying people and is sustainable even after the project is done e.g. in Ethiopia the WLR libraries are still running even after PI stopped working there.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

WLR is implemented in Jordan, we envision scaling to Turkey, Syria and Lebanon because of the Syrian refugee crisis and because our books and training material are in Arabic. We have developed the licence approach, coach training and online training for effective scaling. The WLR model is flexible in a way that allows the volunteer to tailor it to fit her culture, needs and community. That is why WLR has spread organicaly by word of mouth to 30 countries including Australia and Mexico.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

UNICEF and USAID have funded WLR to directly implement the program in Jordan. WLR has partnered with local CBOs to recruit volunteers to train direclty. NRC, IRD and RI have partnered with WLR to pilot scaling the program in the Syrian refugee camps in Jordan. UNHCR and PI have partnered with WLR to pilot scaling in Ethiopia refugee camps. WLR partnered with Yale, Brown and Chicago university to conduct RCT to provide research based evidence on the impact of WLR on children, parents and adults

Sector Expertise

  • I've worked in a sector related to my innovation for more than a year.

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

I started reading aloud to children in my neighbourhood in 2006. For three years I developed WLR as a model organically through human centered design. In 2010 I founded an NGO as a legal entity for WLR in Jordan. Along with a local team and feedback from WLR volunteers we developed the training material and children books. the program is constantly evolving using evidence based research and volunteer feedback. Our expertise is in community based programs, ECD and reading aloud.

Innovation Maturity

  • Existing Prototype or Pilot: I have tested a part of my solution with users and am iterating.

Organization Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Organization Location

Amman Jordan


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Attachments (6)

WLR magazine 2nd edition English 2015.pdf

A magazine that showcases the stories of WLR ambassadors in Zaatri camp

English refugee magazine (1).pdf

A magazine that showcases the stories of the WLR ambassadors in refugee camps

WLR Special Edition -EN.pdf

A description of the journey of WLR

OH ASCD Winter 2016 WLR.pdf

A published article that describes the WLR training.

Zaatari Psycosocial report 2014.pdf

A study done in collaboration with Yale University on the impact of WLR on women volunteers

WLR program Lisence 2017 final.pdf

A description of scaling of WLR


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