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We Love Reading: Refugee-led Reading Circles

Creating read aloud sessions for children on a routine basis in a public space

Photo of Rana Dajani
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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Reading aloud is an important tool to encourage love of reading among children and empowers women and youth to be leaders in their community by setting up of read aloud sessions in their neighbourhoods. The program constitutes training local women and youth to hold readaloud sessions in public spaces in their neighbourhoods where books are routinely read aloud to children. The children take the books home to relive in the readaloud experience and ask their parents to read to them or they read to their siblings thus creating a reading environment in the home. When children love to read they attend and perform better at school, they use reading as a tool to resolve trauma and be more positive. Reading expands the imagination of a child and allows her to dream, to draw upon the experiences of others, to find solutions for her community, learn success and failures, draws the courage to make a difference, learns to listen and communicate with others, learns to empathize and respect others because one understands where the other has come from and understand other cultures, Expressing ourselves to empower future generations to make a peaceful world.

WHO BENEFITS?

Refugees (children and adults) anywhere specifically Syrian refugees in camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. These children became readers, they recommend books to each other, know the names of authors and if one girl is at the end of the line to get books she comes up to ne and asks me to keep a particular book at the bottom of the pile so that she can get it when it is her turn.

PROTOTYPE

We created 20 libraries in the zaatri camp in summer 2014. We held a two day training session that focuses on the art of reading aloud and how to establish a library in the neighbourhood by teaching social entreprneurship skills followed with in two months with a follow up one day training to share successes and challenges. Each trainee pledges to read for a period of time and is given a set of 25 stories to read aloud. She is requested to document and share how she goes about establishing the read aloud sessions. Giving out books is not enough. Research has shown that to plant the love of reading one has to read aloud to the child. When a parent or adult reads to a child an unconscious connection is made between the feeling of security, love and happiness and reading that stays with the child into adulthood which makes her resort to reading when happy or sad because it makes her feel good. Actually WLR is a non formal education in a way because it is promoting literacy in a fun way. To answer your question how did we determine what the community was interested in? WLR is all about children and having fun in the native language. This is common to all humans. We chose stories that are from the local culture in Arabic on common place themes. We are from the same culture so we know what they are interested in terms of stories. The people loved the libraries. They would send their children. The adults who were reading started discussing with me how to spread WLR around.

FEEDBACK

The lending of the library in Zaatri went up five fold after creation of WLR library in the camp. We created the demand in the child which is the key rather than just supplying the product (book). Children who used to draw pictures of violence and war started drawing pictures of flowers and smiling faces. Children were reading aloud to other children. Young men started thinking of ways to spread WLR to other sectors. They developed ownership and started thinking of themselves of changemakers and doers. We conducted a study on reading books related to empathy to children within the context of the WLR program in collaboration with the University of Chicago and were able to show a significant increase in empathy in the children. We therefore project that reading books in the context of the refugee camp can change children behavior to be more positive and empathetic. This is much needed in order to remove negative feelings and create a positive environment so that children can grow up to be more balanced and have a positive outlook to life. WLR is a way to relieve trauma created by the war and refugee situation. Not only for the children but also for the adults by giving them a purpose in their lives to do something fun for the children. WLR also gives the adults an opportunity to be leaders in their communities and so they start thinking of how to make things better for the future. WLR depends on the adult readers to plan where and when they read and how to spread WLR.

HOW IS THIS IDEA DIFFERENT FROM WHAT YOUR ORGANIZATION (OR OTHER ORGANIZATIONS) IS ALREADY DOING?

WLR aims to build capacity. Fostering the love of reading rather than just handing out books as other programs do. You don’t give a person fish, you teach him how to fish. WLR plants the love of reading so that it becomes a skill that remains with the child forever so that she can use it to build, enforce, explore, create and learn. All projects that aim to encourage reading in the world focus on providing books to the children. This is not enough. We cannot train all parents to read aloud and to show passion for reading. But we can train one person per neighborhood to do that and we have shown that this is enough. Our books are in the native tongue/culture.

HOW WOULD YOU USE AMPLIFY FUNDING AND DESIGN SUPPORT?

I would use the funding to implement We Love Reading in the refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. The funding would cover training on the ground and training the trainers, purchasing of appropriate books, management of the scaling. I would develop a tool box to help in the scaling that could later be used in refugee camps all over the world in multiple languages. This would be a physical kit (a set of books, a puppet and a bag) with a manual and online tutorial.

HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF THE CHALLENGE?

immediacy and uncertainty: WLR only needs an adult who can read a child's book anywhere. simple training on how to readaloud and gather children. gender equality: girls and boys attend resource limitation: WLR requires a small set of books children love to read the same story again and again. No need for electricity or internet. exclusivity: men and women old and young can become WLR readers. Cultural sensitivity: WLR books are in arabic and from the local culture. other programs offer in english we believe that to boost identity and confidence the books have to be in Arabic

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS FROM THE AMPLIFY TEAM

The learnings from the refugee context are: the need of WLR program in the refugee context is much higher because of lack of such an opportunity for children (to be read aloud to) in the camp. There are no read aloud activities in the camp. There are other types of activities but none that focus soley on reading. Also most of the activities are given by people from outside the camp and therefore many parents do not send their children. WLR is done by the people of the camp themselves with the vicinity of the tents. Therefore there is more trust. One woman from the camp who we trained told us that a person from Save the children approached her and asked her how is she able to gather the children in her tent for reading aloud when they offer so many activities and attractions to get the children into their safe space and few come. She laughed and told them that she read aloud to them. The real reason is that she is from the camp. Also by involving the people from the camp to carry out the read aloud session you are building capacity and giving a purpose to the adults in the camp something which is needed very much. Also this ensures sustainability of the activity on the long run. The WLR model give a sense of community and belonging for the children and the adult reader. This is very much needed in the context of the refugee camp. We even learned that some children started going to school to learn how to read so that they could enjoy the stories. My wish is that every child loves and enjoys reading. I wish every child to feel the excitement, the thrill, the pure joy of opening a book. I wish every child to experience the whole new world that will open in front of her eyes and the limitless opportunities and power they can obtain and the inspiration that can move mountains. It is a crime to not allow children to have this experience What new worlds internally or externally are waiting to be discovered to make a difference to build a community to bring about change from within. I aim to do accomplish my wish by creating libraries in every neighbourhood in the world. Where an individual reads aloud on a routine basis to the children in her neighborhood.

SKILL SHARE (optional)

We will need help with developing and producing a We Love Reading kit (tool box) that will be essential when scaling up. This would be a physical kit (a set of books, a puppet and a bag) with a manual and online tutorial. I can share my experience in how to be a social entrepreneur how to start small and succeed what to focus on. I have started many projects that were successful and sustainable a service learning center in Jordan, a women mentoring network among others.

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

I am the founder of We Love Reading. I founded the initiative in Jordan and created an NGO (Taghyeer) as a legal umbrella for the initiative. As a scientist to me this is the chaos theory played out in real life “When a butterfly flutters its wings in China there is a hurricane in the Atlantic”.

IS THIS AN IDEA THAT YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION WOULD LIKE TO TAKE FORWARD?

  • Yes, and we are implementing/operating partners of UNICEF or UNHCR.
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Attachments (4)

WLR Experience Map_0001.pdf

We Love Reading User Experience Map

IRA articleRDFeb18.docx

This is an article that we had submitted to International review of education special edition on women literacy. We were invited to submit by UNESCO Life long learning representative who realised that We Love Reading is not only about children but adults as well. Although we wrote it with a focus on adult women the same applies to adult men.

Results Amman Intervention june 2015.pdf

Research shows that reading fiction affects empathy positively. WLR has conducted research with Univ of Chicago to assess the WLR model’s to increase empathy in children. The empathic intervention specifically raised children’s generosity by nearly 100%, as well as increasing the amount of empathic concern they felt for another child. Altogether, the results show that emotional reading intervention causes an increase in empathic concern for another as well as greater prosocial behavior.

Zaatari Psycosocial report 2014.pdf

A study in collaboration with Yale University showing the positive effect of We Love Reading on the psychosocial status of women and children in the Zaatri Camp 2014

62 comments

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Photo of An Old Friend
Team

PLEASE READ THIS TESTIMONY CAREFULLY. I AM USING THIS OPPORTUNITY TO TELL THE WORLD THAT, GREAT MOTHER IS A GIFTED SPELL CASTER. MY HUSBAND LEFT ME FOR NO REASON. I WAS NO LONGER MY SELF AND AT A TIME, I ATTEMPTED TO COMMIT SUICIDE. BUT THANK GOD I CAME ACROSS GREAT MOTHER ONLINE. I READ GOOD REVIEWS ABOUT HER GOOD WORK AND HOW USEFUL AND HELPFUL SHE HAS BEEN TO PEOPLE. I CONTACTED HER AND TOLD HER MY PROBLEM. SHE TOLD ME THAT MY WAN WILL COME BACK TO ME. SHE TOLD ME WHAT TO DO AND I DID IT AND TO MY GREAT SURPRISE MY HUSBAND CAME BACK JUST AS GREAT MOTHER SAID. I EVEN NOTICED THAT WHEN MY HUSBAND RETURNED, HE EVEN LOVE ME MORE. THIS IS NOT BRAIN WASHING BUT GREAT MOTHER OPENED UP HIS EYES TO SEE HOW MUCH LOVE I HAVE FOR HIM AND HOW MUCH LOVE WE OUGHT TO SHARE WITH EACH OTHER. CONTACT HER NOW ON HER EMAIL:
GREATMOTHEROFSOLUTIONTEMPLE@YAHOO.COM AND YOU CAN ALSO CONTACT HER ON WHATSAPP WITH HER NUMBER: +2348078359876 SHE ALSO HAS 2 BLOGS WHICH YOU CAN ALSO USE TO REACH HER. THESE ARE THE BLOGS BELOW. YOU CAN CHECK OUT THE BLOGS TO SEE HER WORK.

GREATMOTHEROFPOWERS.BLOGSPOT.COM
GREATMOTHEROFSOLUTION.BLOGSPOT.COM

Photo of An Old Friend
Team

PLEASE READ THIS TESTIMONY CAREFULLY. I AM USING THIS OPPORTUNITY TO TELL THE WORLD THAT, GREAT MOTHER IS A GIFTED SPELL CASTER. MY HUSBAND LEFT ME FOR NO REASON. I WAS NO LONGER MY SELF AND AT A TIME, I ATTEMPTED TO COMMIT SUICIDE. BUT THANK GOD I CAME ACROSS GREAT MOTHER ONLINE. I READ GOOD REVIEWS ABOUT HER GOOD WORK AND HOW USEFUL AND HELPFUL SHE HAS BEEN TO PEOPLE. I CONTACTED HER AND TOLD HER MY PROBLEM. SHE TOLD ME THAT MY WAN WILL COME BACK TO ME. SHE TOLD ME WHAT TO DO AND I DID IT AND TO MY GREAT SURPRISE MY HUSBAND CAME BACK JUST AS GREAT MOTHER SAID. I EVEN NOTICED THAT WHEN MY HUSBAND RETURNED, HE EVEN LOVE ME MORE. THIS IS NOT BRAIN WASHING BUT GREAT MOTHER OPENED UP HIS EYES TO SEE HOW MUCH LOVE I HAVE FOR HIM AND HOW MUCH LOVE WE OUGHT TO SHARE WITH EACH OTHER. CONTACT HER NOW ON HER EMAIL:
GREATMOTHEROFSOLUTIONTEMPLE@YAHOO.COM AND YOU CAN ALSO CONTACT HER ON WHATSAPP WITH HER NUMBER: +2348078359876 SHE ALSO HAS 2 BLOGS WHICH YOU CAN ALSO USE TO REACH HER. THESE ARE THE BLOGS BELOW. YOU CAN CHECK OUT THE BLOGS TO SEE HER WORK.

GREATMOTHEROFPOWERS.BLOGSPOT.COM
GREATMOTHEROFSOLUTION.BLOGSPOT.COM

Photo of Xiaonan Zhao
Team

I have to say that this is a brilliant and practical idea. Reading is a very good way to know the culture and how the world is going, making people to love reading is a fundamental approach to help. I especially agree with your idea that teaching people to fish is far more important than given them fish. On the other side, this idea is very practical. I am attracted by its simplicity which is critical to make it work. There is only one thing I have concern, can the reading aloud activity last long when you stop motivating them. Can it be an autonomous activity without outside help?

Photo of Tracy Lê
Team

This reading idea is awesome! I love reading and this is one of my favourite ideas. Creating and encourageing the love of reading among people is necessary not only to improve the way people communicate but also to transfer knowledge within the community. More important, this idea can applied everywhere to everyone, however, the books that will be read out loud should be interesting enough to hold the joy of reading. Once again, congratulation!

Photo of Sz
Team

Salamo Alykom( the peace be upon you) sister Rana. Starting from this verse of Quraan " اقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ الْأَكْرَمُ الَّذِي عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ عَلَّمَ الْإِنسَانَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَم" "Read and your Lord is Most Generous, who taught by the pen Taught man that which he knew not" i would like to send heaps of congrats on your NGO's achievements at the Zaatari Camp. This is a very important idea in terms of educating kids at their first stage of life. Actually your idea should be spread all over the world and reach all refugees no matter what their religion, belief or race is. My question is that Do you have any sort of plans for expanding outside Jordan? I am Lebanese and i left to Australia to get enrolled in my master program. I feel happy to read this. Jazaki Allhu Khayr, may God reward you on this.

Souhaib El Zoobi

Photo of Suzy Lawrie
Team

This idea really resonates with me. When I was a child one of my favourite things to do was to read at any chance I got. It helped with my spelling and I loved being transported into the world of the book I was reading. This idea will succeed in its simplicity and portability.

Photo of Elizabeth
Team

Congratulations, Rana. You are transforming the lives of these children, making a lasting, positive impact on the way they see the world and their place in it. I have read about trauma therapy whereby children are asked to draw pictures or write "fictional" stories which subtly reveal their experiences, and with the work of a therapist helps them to heal the traumatic emotional scars left by such events. I would love to see your book reading program extend to a book writing program for the kids, so that they can create their own story books or picture books. These books could then be shared around as part of the library. I believe that this could really help other kids in similar situations - camps, fleeing adversity, seeking safety - to relate and feel comforted in discovering that there are others their own age who understand them. Further, it would be a tremendously valuable learning opportunity for children on the other side of the world who have no concept of the life of refugees. I live in Sydney, Australia, and I would love to contribute to your cause. There are very few children's book reading programs (outside of the school environment) even in this fortunate country.

Photo of Diana Romero Delvasto
Team

Dear Rana,

I want to congratulate to you for the incredible work you are doing with these communities! It would be more approaching If more people around the world engage themselves with the importance of encouraging children to read. As a personal experience, I come from an undeveloped country, in there, the habit of reading books is lost in the communities, specially for the new generations. Social media and smartphones are putting apart the motivation from children to read. So, instead leaving time for reading books, they rather prefer to spend more time interacting in the the social media applications. Certainly, parents play a crucial role in the education of their children, they need to encourage their kids playing with books rather than playing with smartphones. If each of us start being ambassadors in our hometowns and try to replicate the WLR model, our next generations will have the opportunity to understand the importance of reading.

Best wishes and congratulations!
Diana

Photo of Lyn Evans
Team

I love the idea of including grandparents in this model. From personal experience, when I was very small, my great-grandmother used to read to me, and after she passed away, my grandmother took over. They had time to spend when my mother was busily doing chores, and those stories still resonate with me years later; the fables, the fairy-tales handed down the generations.
Listening to stories should be a pleasant past-time, and relieve the traumas which these children have suffered. I am concerned about some of the suggestions for children to start writing books as a way to relieve trauma, because Rana said in the past their stories were violent. Unless there is a trained therapist available to help deal with the issues that come up, perhaps better to just make the time for pleasure and relaxation, which will foster a love of reading and learning for the rest of their lives.
Certainly there will be issues that refugees will carry with them forever, and at some point some professional counselling may be available, but if that's not the case at present, perhaps just promote the educational and fun side of reading. Sure, its escapism, but they are children! Just my opinion.

Photo of Majed
Team

Great project, I wish you all the best.

Photo of Dominique
Team

Great work!

Photo of Telche Abu Sulttan
Team

Hi Rana, I love the WLR project and the fact that you are already putting it into action in refugee camps in Jordan, providing a solid basis on which to replicate your project in refugee camps in Lebanon and Turkey. I was particularly interested in how you spoke of reading aloud as a way of relieving trauma. Whilst reading is well known for its therapeutic effects, through providing a positive escape/distraction and enhancing cognitive processes to better understand one's own position in the world, I thought that this therapeutic aspect could be enhanced with a writing element whereby the child is encouraged to write about their own experiences. As another contributor suggested below, stories could even be developed and published, providing a source of income for the project. The children could also read their own stories aloud to other children in the camp, helping them to come to terms with loss and the traumatic experiences of being uprooted from their communities. Similarly to the ripple effect you spoke of whereby children may encourage their parents to read to them through their enthusiasm for reading developed by the project, in this way, children and adults participating in the WLR project may inspire their peers to take up reading too.

I wish you all the best in taking this project forward. I hope to replicate it in some way in the refugee camps in the occupied Palestinian territories.

أتمنى لك النجاح

Telche

Photo of Nicole Cote
Team

Hi Rana,

I was very moved by your project on reading! I believe that everyone, everywhere can find a book to enjoy, and in my experience (as I hope it has been in yours) this has seem to be the case. I have a few comments on your project, just for your consideration.
My first thought is about the women who do the reading in these situations. I feel like there is a great opportunity here not only to allow women to be empowered in their community by their direct reading to the children, but also by mentoring each other. I would be interested to see the women readers share tips/experiences/stories among themselves. I know that there might only be one woman in the community doing this, and I am not sure about the logistics of them meeting in person, but I wonder if there is some way (via writing to each other or something) that these women can learn from each other and have each other as a support network. A strong teacher is the only way to get strong learners, and I think that having that support system to fall back on might be helpful. Women helping women is a particular interest of mine, and I think that there would be benefits from this kind of communication. It could also create a sense of community among them.

Another thought that I had is about reading stories from the children’s own culture. I understand the importance of one’s relationship with their own culture, that they learn certain values, and etc. I realize that the children’s parents and the larger community would approve of them reading books from their own culture, as well. I do wonder, though, if it might be useful to sometimes mix in stories from another culture. One of the most inspirational aspects of literature is its ability to move us through space and time—when we cannot go there physically. Having a sense of what’s different allows us to dream. Also, reading allows us a glimpse into another person’s world. It might be useful for the children to find connections and similarities between themselves and children of other cultures through reading. This might give the sense of being part of a larger community—the world, which is good. Also, being able to sympathize with people who are different than you is an important skill—one that I think is most able to be learned through reading!

These are just a few thoughts that I had. I am very excited that you are encouraging reading, learning, and community in this way.

Kind regards,

Nicole

Photo of Alexander Cheung
Team

I love the idea of libraries in refugee camps, as I am a wholehearted believer in proactive, learner-led education. I'm concerned, however, that parents are being sidelined in this initiative. Considering how much of a stakeholder they are in their own children's future success, could the initiative tap into this motivation more to drive interest among the children? Unless the parents are unusually incapacitated in some way (which they might very well be, in refugee situations), they should be entrusted with more responsibility. I believe the greatest, longest-term, most sustainable influence on any child's education is their own parents.

Photo of Rana Dajani
Team

We totally agree that the parents are the most important influence on their children. However to train every parent is impossible but to train one person per neighbourhood is easier. The children usually go back home and start asking their parents or older siblings to read aloud to them. In this way the adults are encouraged by the children themselves to read.
We believe that by planting the love of reading among children we will be creating a new generation of adults who will be readers.

Photo of Alexander Cheung
Team

Great point. Sometimes it takes children's intrinsic motivation -- and their willingness to ask for what they want -- to get their needs met.

Do parents need to be trained to read to their children though? Unless they are illiterate, reading a children's book does not seem too difficult. Are they pressed for time? But my understanding is that most refugees are un- or underemployed. I guess what keeps gnawing at me is that their families and communities can be further benefited by involving parents as more important stakeholders. Outsourcing responsibilities that rightfully fall under the umbrella of parenting can have unintended repercussions.

But the Kelleys do challenge us to try to solve major problems by perhaps changing the focus of your effort. Perhaps all too often society focuses on parents, instead of focusing on the curiosity and responsibility of children to learn for themselves.

Photo of Peter Meredith
Team

Very interesting project. Thanks!

Photo of Brock
Team

Hi Rana,

I have been thinking about how thos challenge can help in new refugee crises such as what is happening with the people of Syria. As far as I can see, your model is the only one of the Top Ideas that will assist here. The fact it can be quickly and easily replicated should be applauded.

Regards Brock

Photo of Arriane Serafico
Team

Hi Rana,

As a major bookworm myself as a kid, I absolutely love this idea. The effect on me of reading book after book after book as a kid, was: well, 1) I got glasses very early because I would read under the covers, well into the night, and 2) it inspired me to write stories of my own, which was a huge confidence booster for me!

I also found it so inspiring when you said that: "The children were taking the books back to their tent and copying the text and illustrations so that they could have their own book."

It reminded of this idea I read about before on Kickstarter, called Flint Books. Here's the link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1699721850/flint-books?ref=live

Kevin Meier says: "For kids especially, the world is becoming fuller and fuller of things that are creative for them, but flipping a digital page and having a story read to you, just isn’t imagination. I believe in imagination, I believe that kids are fantastic storytellers, but sometimes they just need a little prompt..."

Basically, Kevin's idea is to produce wordless children's story books with illustrations as prompts, so children can create their own narrative. I saw it as a great tool for empowerment, giving someone so young the power to create his/her own narrative, get creative, use his/her own words. I was always interested in how it would perform as a tool in an urban poor context, or in this case, for children in refugee camps.

Maybe this could be a step further down the road, as an addition to your WLR kit, or even to your roster of books: WLR kits can include storybooks that were created in collaboration with the storyteller/volunteer and his/her group of kids! It can be such a tangible progress meter to the kids' growth and love for reading and words.

Good luck! You're doing such great work, and I genuinely wish you can scale and share this experience to more kids, and get more of these young ones inspired to learn.

Photo of Leahna
Team

Dear Rana,

I think that this idea is stellar! I like it the most for three main reasons. First, the reading circles are beneficial to all with very little effort. They are self sustaining as long as there are books to read and readers. Finally, they build upon established values within the groups and cultures so there is little opposition in implementation.

I was also reading some of the comments, and I love the idea of a writing contest! It gets the kids involved on a higher level. I wonder, would it be possible to take this a step further in camps with high participation rates by encouraging listeners to have regular"book clubs" or discussions of the books that they read? This would encourage listeners to read more and take steps on their own- hopefully creating a group that could stand on it's own with little effort.

Best wishes and congratulations!
Leahna

Photo of Dana Atallah
Team

Dear Rana,

Congratulations on your NGO's achievements at the Zaatari Camp and in Jordan. There is a lot more to do and I wish you all the success to enable you to take the WLR initiative further. One way, that I thought of, that could be revenue generating that would help in scaling this initiative, provide some income to the refugees, and at the same time provide ownership for the children, their parents and the volunteers, is to ask the children to write a story (stories), provide illustrations, and turn it (them) into a book, publish it and make it available for sale, locally and regionally, online and offline. Translate it and share it with WLR groups in other parts of the world. This could be replicated in other refugee camps and pockets in inner cities, that have approached you to collaborate. The stories shared by children would bring a true perspective of how children in refugee camps are dreaming, thinking, developing, etc. Revenue generated from the sales of the books would need to be shared with the NGO (for scaling purposes) and the children. Just an Idea on Open Ideo!

Shukran 3ala kul juhoudek. (sorry, I don't have Arabic keyboard).

Photo of Rana Dajani
Team

Dear Dana
Thank you for sharing contacts for the hearing impaired.
We will follow up and see what we can do.
Also thank you for the idea of creating books for children by the children themselves and adults.
We actually piloted this idea early on last year.
The librarians informed us that the children were writing stories so we asked the librarians to share with us the stories that the children were writing. Many were very violent.
Some of the librarians became writers and actually One of them Asma writes a story regularly in the Zaatri camp monthly magazine.
We have a grant to develop 10 stories we are planning to hold a story contest for anyone to submit a story. we will pick the winners and develop a story book from it in this coming year.
Thank you for sharing
Rana

Photo of Lisa di Liberto
Team

Hello Rana, I think your idea is not only brilliant but also compassionate. Through your presentation, I learned that reading was not done for pleasure among the children. That information makes WLR that much more impactful in the simplicity of your concept and the methods in which you put this into motion.

I would like to ask you if you are thinking of a component to WLR whereby a sign language interpreter would be present during read aloud? I have come to understand that a single Arabic sign language is currently being developed. Might this be something that would be implemented in the future? Perhaps using the books in your travel libraries as a base model to initiate this concept could be used to facilitate something like this. In addition, is there a separate or inclusive read aloud for those children using Unified Arabic Braille?

What I love is the empowerment you provide to the community as a whole through the vehicle of reading aloud to the children. I would love to work with you and your team by offering my design services to create the WLR kit, if you are not currently working with someone. I love the idea of your barter in exchanging information. It preserves and upholds the very idea of WLR.

Photo of Rana Dajani
Team

Dear Lisa
Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm and support.
Your suggestion of including a sign language interpreter is wonderful. I am not familiar with the field but I am open to learning and developing a parallel approach.
Concerning reading aloud for children using Arabic Braille. We have had some internal discussions on creating children literature using Arabic Braille and incorporating the books into the reading aloud sessions.
I only know of a program that creates audio books for children in Arabic targeting both visually impaired and non impaired children.
However, this is a component we can start developing as we grow. Thank you very much for pointing it out to us.
Thank you for offering to work with us.
We would love your help and will be in touch once we start developing the WLR kit.
Please email us at admin@welovereading.org to follow up.
sincerely
Rana

Photo of Lisa di Liberto
Team

You are very welcome Rana. I will follow up with the email you provided.
Best regards, -Lisa

Photo of Dana Atallah
Team

Hi Rana,

You can check with Al Masar Centre ( http://almasar.edu.jo) in Amman, they might be able to put you in touch regarding Arabic Sign or Dr. Manal Hamzeh who has worked in the field before but is now a professor in the U.S. She is from Amman and could be a good resource if you decide to take this forward in the future. http://wsprogram.nmsu.edu/faculty-and-staff/manal-hamzeh/

Great Work!

Dana

Photo of Brock
Team

Hi Rana,

How do you encourage the adults to be involved in the reading? I notice Little Ripples is providing an employment opportunity for their refugee ladies whereas you are seeking volunteers. I'm sure their are no shortage of people willing to help, but I wonder whether the adults could further be equipped with skills/resources that will assist when they have the opportunity to move on.

Photo of Rana Dajani
Team

The children usually go back home and start asking their parents or older siblings to read aloud to them. In this way the adults are encouraged by the children themselves to read. Research has shown that it is more difficult to plant the love of reading as one becomes older.
We believe that by planting the love of reading among children we will be creating a new generation of adults who will be readers.

Photo of Charlotte
Team

Hi Lisa,

Thank you for the rectification and for offering your design services. I agree we should keep the conversation going, as this project has such great potential.

Hi Rana,

I would be very happy to help brainstorm and think through what the WLK kit could include. My personal email is charlottebrugman@gmail.com. I really like your idea and approach - I think it could benefit children in refugee camps allover the world!

Best,

Charlotte

Photo of Rana Dajani
Team

Dear Charlotte
Thank you for your comments and volunteering.
I will be in touch with you.
Rana

Photo of Charlotte
Team

Dear Lisa,

I really love your idea for the We Love Reading kits. Reading stories out loud and discussing them in groups is an excellent way of sharing thoughts and working through trauma. Kids in refugee camps in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan are constantly under stress and their parents might not be able to provide the time and attention needed. It's easy to implement and simple, but I'm sure will have a huge impact. Congratulations!

I'd also be happy to help think through what the WLK kit could look like.

Best,

Charlotte

Photo of Lisa di Liberto
Team

Hi Charlotte, this is not my idea. This is Rana Dajani's idea. I only commented on this incredible idea with my support and design services towards her brilliant idea.
However I agree with you that the children in the refugee camps, including the camps in Bulgaria, would benefit greatly from having WLR instituted. Particularly those children who are unaccompanied minors. This helps give them a sense of themselves during this time.
If nothing else it is important to keep the conversation going.
My best,
Lisa

Photo of Tequita Fowler
Team

Awesome work Rana! This is a awesome idea that I would like to implement in my community efforts working with young Liberian girls and boys in the U.S. I am wondering have you considered adding a "Create Your Own Story Book" to your tool kit? If the children cannot write they can still draw pictures that tell a story as well. I know kids love to tell stories and research has shown it is a effective way for children to communicate their feelings as well as for them to feel in control of the outcome of their own stories in the midst of a world that might be out their control around them.

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Team

Dear Tequita,
Your suggestions of adding the component "Create your own story book" is very relevant and we have actually encouraged children in the zaatri camp to do that. As you rightly mentioned this helps the child deal with the trauma. We actually have some of the children's stories with their own drawings. Some of them are very traumatic and some less so. We are looking forward to include these components in the tool box/kit we hope to develop with ideao.
You are welcome to start We Love Reading in the US with Liberian children. Please email me at admin@welovereading.org and we can send you all the material we have (guidelines etc)

Thank you
Rana

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Team

Congratulations on what you've been able to accomplish with WLR. I love the simplicity and scalability of the program; WLR makes reading a fun, social experience for children and the overall community. Have you considered making their favorite books come to life and turn them into a play? One of my fondest childhood memories was being Little Billy Goat in the tale, "Three Billy Goat Gruffs." I was horribly shy, but I loved to read. Adapting a book into a play could be a creative, interactive experience for the reading circle!

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Team

Dear Karen
Thank you for your comments and support. Turning books in to plays is a great idea.
Some of the volunteer librarians have actually done that as an added activity. We dont include it as a core element because it will overwhelm the volunteer however, it is there for those who have the energy and enthusiasm to carry it out.
Thank you
Rana

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Team

Hi Rana,

I just wanted to say congratulations on making it to this stage and I hope you make it all the way through. I am a great fan and strong believer in the power of what you do. I have much respect for all the impact evaluation and scientific approach that you follow and I hope to learn from you.

As I mentioned several times to you before, you have my support and Edraak's support to scale up your project to the rest of the region. You also have our support in creating a MOOC on Edraak to support the scaling up of your toolkit.

Warmest regards,
Dina

Photo of Rana Dajani
Team

Dear Dina
Thank you for your support.
We look forward to working all together to make this world a better place.
Rana

Photo of Ivellisse Morales
Team

Rana - this is an amazing idea! Have you considered having read aloud session in other languages? You can read the same book in different languages in one sitting. Children learn languages fast. If you read to them in a different language while they're young, they will grow up smarter, more adaptable and bilingual (which seems to be a critical quality as a refugee). If you read aloud to a mixed room of children with different languages, this will help foster cultural understanding, tolerance and curiosity.

Photo of Rana Dajani
Team

Dear Ivellisse
Thank you for your suggestion.
We thought of reading in another language in our libraries. This would be beneficial and encourage learning another language and will foster acceptance and tolerance. Having said that I have one reservation which is that if you want to plant the love of reading and turn reading from a chore that is boring to a fun experience in children who are at least 4 years old to 12 years old (this is the age group we target because we are attracting children who are in the streets not the parents) you would have to read in their mother tongue to capture their attention and imagination. If you are reading in a foreign language this will not capture all children. Reading in another language could be a second stage of the we love reading library after you plant the love of reading. first we must plant the love of reading and that only happens when reading is associated with fun and security in the minds of the children. More importantly, in order to develop an identity and confidence research has shown that one must read in the mother tongue and for a child to feel secure especially after the trauma that a refugee goes through you want to help the child feel secure through reading in his/her native tongue not adding another level of stress to understand another language. Also in order to be creative you need to be able to read and enjoy your mother tongue.
Moreover your suggestion of reading to a mixed room of children with different languages is not the scenario in the refugee camp. The camp consists of children refugees from the same country and language. Your suggestion would work in an immigrant situation where people immigrate to a different culture/language. Thank you for sharing.
Our experience has taught us in order to succeed in a social initiative one has to be simple for sustainability purposes by introducing another language you are looking for adult readers in that other language which is not sustainable reading in the mother tongue is.

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Team

Dear Rana,

As you know, we've had some experts evaluate your idea and provide feedback. One expert has some comments for you. Please continue to work through your idea during this refinement phase!

"Dear Rana, I really love this proposal. Thank you so much for your courage and initiative to start this project in Jordan. I will come to look for this when I am in Amman. I could not agree more with your assessment that the loss of reading (globally) is a crisis and a cultural loss, as individuals focus more and more on smart phones, tablets, and other technology. In the words of American philosopher Henry David Thoreau: "Our inventions are often pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at." While technology certainly has its role (particularly in the medicine and health fields), a child needs the simplicity of books, and a parent reading to them at night. In the refugee camps where I have been working in Africa there are no books at all, so please also bring your project to Africa as you succeed and expand."

Thanks!

The Amplify Team

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Team

Thank you for your comments! It so gratifying to find someone who understands the importance and urgency of reading real books and not suggesting electronic alternatives. I will use Thoreau's words in my training and in response to such suggestions. It is much easier, and less costly to read a book than to figure out devices, internet connections etc. Actually as Thoreau and you have pointed out it is the human connection (experience) that is needed in the reading process (experience) to plant the love of reading and create readers. Electronic devices cannot provide that. This becomes even more relevant in the refugee situation where children and adults are in need of human contact, sharing of emotions and empathy. We have evolved as a social species we need the human touch electronics will not and cannot be the substitute only an aid. You mention Africa, first I would like to share even in some refugee camps where there are books they are not used or read at all because the children and adults dont love to read. therefore WLR offers the reading aloud experience with the books to ensure that the love of reading is planted and only then will the books found in refugee camps be read. WLR has a mission to reach every child in the world. It is a crime not to give a child the opportunity to dream and go beyond her/his circumstances to eventually make her/his dream a reality. We hope that the Amplify team will help us be able to reach Africa and spread love of reading.

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Team

Congratulations on making it to the Refugee Education Challenge Refinement List, Rana! We really love the simplicity of this idea and are interested to learn more about it! For example, what did you learn from the 20 libraries that you set up in Za’atari? What was different from non-refugee contexts? How did you determine what the community was interested in? How did people interact with the libraries? What do you plan to do now that you’ve conducted an initial pilot? As we mentioned, the simplicity of this idea is attractive - what do you envision doing with support from the Amplify Program?

One way you can help us get a better understanding of how you’d like to continue implementing this idea is to upload a User Experience Map http://ideo.pn/UX_Map. Great to have you in the challenge!

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Team

Dear team
We are honored to be in the refinement list!
Can you please help me find the edit button to answer your questions and upload the user experience map? I cannot find it.
Thank you

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Team

Hi there! The button is at the top of this page -- click "Edit Contribution" and you should be able to adjust your post and upload the user experience map from there!

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Team

The learnings from the refugee context are: the need of WLR program in the refugee context is much higher because of lack of such an opportunity for children (to be read aloud to) in the camp. There are no read aloud activities in the camp. There are other types of activities but not any that focus soley on reading. Also most of the activities are given by people from outside the camp and therefore many parents do not send their children. WLR is done by the people of the camp themselves with the vicinity of the tents. Therefore there is more trust. One woman from the camp who we trained told us that a person from Save the children approached her and asked her how is she able to gather the children in her tent for reading aloud when they offer so many activities and attractions to get the children into their safe space and few come. She laughed and told them that she read aloud to them. That is it. The real reason is that she is from the camp. Also by involving the people from the camp to carry out the read aloud session you are building capacity and giving a purpose to the adults in the camp something which is needed very much. Also this ensures sustainability of the activity on the long run. The WLR model give a sense of community and belonging for the children and the adult reader. This is very much needed in the context of the refugee camp. We even learned that some children started going to school to learn how to read so that they could enjoy the stories. Actually WLR is a non formal education in a way because it is promoting literacy in a fun way. To answer your question how did we determine what the community was interested in? WLR is all about children and having fun in the native language. This is common to all humans. We chose stories that are from the local culture in Arabic on common place themes. We are from the same culture so we know what they are interested in terms of stories. The people loved the libraries. They would send their children. More importantly the adults who were reading started discussing with me how to spread WLR to other sectors in the camp. We want to empower the adults we trained to spread the model in the Zaatri camp and to other camps in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

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Team

I posted the answers to your questions as a reply and in the box allocated for answers from amplify team. However there was not enough space so I included some of the answers in other sections.
Is that okay?

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Team

Hi Rana, we'll make the space longer so that you can add those answers to the space in the form. But if that's not enough space, just replying to the questions under the comment where they're asked and updating the body of your idea as necessary should be just fine!

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Team

Hi Rana,
Thanks for your detailed response! It's great that you have begun this in camps and are already generating insights. Can you tell us a little more about how this activity is building the capacity of the adults who get involved and how it is ensuring sustainability?

It would be great to get a sense of what you might do with Amplify support? For example, are you trying anything new in the other camps you'd like to start working in? If so, what? If not, how do you imagine using Amplify funding and design support?

Looking forward to learning more!

Photo of Rana Dajani
Team

To each woman, WLR offers a library kit, which includes the first 25 books to be read aloud and lent; participation in a two-day training program; and the support of the WLR team once the library is established. The training program has several components: it begins with a facilitated discussion on the importance of reading historically and in contemporary terms, focusing, in particular, on the relevance of reading for pleasure as a means of engaging society. The discussion also touches on why children and adults don't read for pleasure in the women's respective neighborhoods. Following the discussion, the women are trained to read aloud by a professional storyteller. They practice reading aloud to each other and receive constructive feedback from other trainees. In the process, trainees are encouraged to speak openly of their opinion, to develop personal storytelling styles, and to voice their criticism in a constructive manner. Along a similar vein, the discussions include debates around the cultural, religious, and political issues facing the women's respective communities. A place for the expression of personal opinion is engendered, and the women are put into the position to reflect on their arguments, to re-formulate them, and to consequently defend more nuanced perspectives. The end of the discussions exposes them to vantages from which others may disagree with their own opinions.The women are then given a logistical overview of how to set up the library. This includes 1) identifying a central location in the neighborhood – the training describes how to approach the mosque or church leadership about beginning the program and WLR supplies formal letters of endorsement; 2) advertising the read aloud sessions at the location and among the families of the neighborhood; 3) organizing a regular schedule for the read aloud sessions tailored for the community; 4) recruiting volunteers to help the library, if needed; 5) encouraging families to have their children attend; and 6) documenting the entire experience through a diary and/or photographs.Beyond the initial training, the women take responsibility for raising funds for more books. To that end, the training ends with an overview of ideas for fundraising, including bake sales and donations from mosques, as well as a suggestion that the children can be involved in the fundraising process. Another workshop is held 3-6 months afterward that allows for the women to share, reflect on, and resolve issues they are facing at an individual and collective level.At the outset, opening a library turned each woman into a community leader, garnering the respect and acknowledgment of other members of the community. Women who previously circumscribed their roles within the home were inspired to become active and productive members of their communities beyond the library. In the case of one library in Eastern Amman, the weekly reading aloud sessions were organically followed with conversation between the mothers of the children about the problem of trash in the neighborhood streets. Within a few weeks, the parents, with the help of the children, created a compost system to reduce the amount of non-degradable material on the street. Trained women from refugee camps reported that the men of the neighborhood encourage them in their role as leaders of the libraries. When we asked one of the woman what inspires you? She said: “ It is the eyes of the children when listening to a book or holding a book”. Furthermore, the women are in the position, after establishing the library, to endorse reading at their home and through their social circles. Most library leaders also encourage interested friends to join WLR and establish libraries of their own. Through this, the women become teachers in their own right and take on the personal initiative of expanding the model. One woman told us “I used to not like reading and avoid books. Now I love to read” Importantly, the women in charge of each library are in the continuous process of tailoring it to meet the particular obstacles of the community of which they are a part. They take into account everything from the local neighborhood culture to the political dynamic of the mosque. Unlike an externally imposed framework dictating how each library is run, the WLR model manifests differently in each neighborhood. And although the women are leading on a voluntary basis, their ownership of the library grounds their role in the neighborhood and sustains the project into the future. The lack of focus on individual capacities, as opposed to material provision, is notable in many developmental initiatives in the region, where capital is directed towards achieving easily calculable and quantifiable results. And from an international vantage, initiatives geared towards empowerment can disregard local particularity in damaging ways. WLR is a grassroots project that shows that capacity building is the most effective way to sustain social change.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Hi Rana. This is a great initiative. It reminds me of the Reach Out and Read Program in the US which promotes early childhood literacy for children in their doctors' office waiting rooms. It is a wonderful idea to bring this practice to any public space.
http://www.reachoutandread.org/why-we-work/importance-of-reading-aloud/

Have you seen the Fab Lab Idea Post here? They are building a design/work space in Zaateri Camp. In a comment to me on that post Dave mentions that they may provide day care services for children whose parents are taking courses there. I wonder if the Lab space might be a good fit for We Love Reading - enabling parents to study/work and kids to benefit from your program?

Photo of Rana Dajani
Team

Dear Bettina, thank you for sharing. I learned about the reach out and read program in doctors offices and tried to implement it in Jordan. The problem is that adults dont read aloud to start with so providing books is not the first step. to make it work one would need to have a volunteer in the waiting room reading aloud so that the parents learn what and how to read aloud.
Your suggestion of using the Fab Lab area for kids as a We Love Reading space is a great idea. The adults we train to read aloud can choose any place they want to read aloud and this space can be promoted as an option.
Rana

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
Team

Hi Rana.
It is awesome to read in the post that some children were so excited by WLR that they were motivated to return to school and learn to crack the code so that they can read books themselves!
With Reach Out and Read there are volunteers reading aloud, modeling this behavior for parents at program sites, but I see from the website not at all sites. I agree modelling is very important! (especially if there is no culture for reading to children at all!) "Reach Out and Read is an evidence-based nonprofit organization of medical providers who promote early literacy and school readiness in pediatric exam rooms nationwide by integrating children's books and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud into well-child visits."
Can you describe the libraries you mention? Are they lending libraries? Who runs the libraries?
Have you considered expanding the project to include reading aloud of chapter books? In my experience older children love to be read to as well - chapter books, chapter by chapter. Might this be an event that would also invite adults to listen? Perhaps older youth can be the readers as well?

Great project! Good luck expanding it.

Photo of Rana Dajani
Team

Dear Bettina
Thank you for your comments and suggestions.
The We Love Reading Libraries are living libraries. They consist of an adult reading aloud a story on a routine basis in a public space. The adult in this case the WLR librarian has a bag of 25 childrens books. After finishing reading aloud two or three books the adult gives out all the books she has to the children to take home to enjoy and read by themselves or to read to a sibling or to ask a parent to read aloud to them thus creating an environment in the home that encourages reading. Next session the child brings back the book and gives it to the adult who gathers the books and the cycle starts all over again. The WLR librarian reads two or three books, the children line up and take a book home. Because children love to read the same book again and again. 25 books is enough for 6 months. So in a way the WLR libraries are lending libraries. The WLR librarian runs the libraries. But as you can see from my description these are not physical libraries they are living libraries. This is why they are successful and sustainable and cost efficient. In a way they are substituting the parent.
To answer your question about reading aloud chapter books. Of course I thought about it. However, this comes as a second stage. The majority of the children do not enjoy reading and research has shown that in order to plant the love of reading one must start very young. The older the more difficult it is to plant the love of reading. We therefore could not start with chapter books with older children except with groups of children who have already attended the WLR libraries for at least a couple of years i.e. they already love to read. And we have just started doing that. In some cases the older youth have been readers to the younger ones. This has happened in Zaatri. Adults are always curious to attend and listen but as I said the older the more difficult to plant the love of reading and we have chosen to focus our energy on the young children because the results are much better.

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Team

Hi Rana,

Do you have a sense for how many reading sessions are being held and how many parents and children are benefitting? What places do you feel you have good programs and where would you like to set up programs next?

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Team

Usually reading sessions are held once or twice a week. it depends on multiple factors it could be even more. It is mostly children who attend because they are running around in the camp. A few parents attend. The idea is about empowering the child to go where he/she are having fun and to tie the fun with reading in a safe space. On average around 20-30 children attend. we only set up 20 WLR libraries in Zaatri. We would love to spread the model to other camps in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. as well as increasing the numbers in Zaatri camp.

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Team

Congrats on this being today's Featured Contribution!

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Congrats on making it to the Refinement Phase Rana! We would love it if you can take some time to answer the new Refinement questions that we've added to your original idea submission form. To answer the new questions, hit the Edit Contribution button at the top of your post. Scroll down to the entry fields of the new Refinement questions. Hit Save when you are done editing.

Also, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 5/11" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing!

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Team

Hi Rana,

I co founded a similar initiative in the UAE. It is a very successful model. We also included a craft to go along with the theme of the book. After the first year we involved parents and expatriate English speakers. We also partnered with book sellers to secure discounts on books. Ultimately the program was picked up by the UAE Government and funded by them. If you have not already, look at Dubai Cares for funding and if you are interested in expanding the program to Lebanon, let me know and I can connect you with a wonderful school. Also, for books in Arabic, Scholastic is based in Lebanon and could possibly provide books. Noor Art in the US, Fee Kanya Makan in the UAE. There are many publishers in the UAE. Scholastic has class box sets of books with multiple copies for the children to follow along. When we were able to provide take home books, the children were able to share then with their siblings. That worked out great.

I'm also producing a feature length film and the director and her crew hopefully will be in Jordan in summer. Would you and your program be available for filming?

Much success to you!

Photo of Rana Dajani
Team

Dear Anisa
Thank you for your comments and suggestions. We would love to meet you and you are welcome to film our program any time.
I would like to make two points:
1. we focus on the Arabic language because to be creative and love to read it has to be in your native language. Therefore we dont do English in the Arab world. otherwise reading becomes another chore not a source of pleasure and fun.
2. We avoid adding any activity to the reading because we want our readers to focus on reading alone and for reading by itself to be the source of pleasure and fun. If we add a craft it would detract from the reading. There are many programs that offer crafts but extremely few focus on reading aloud. Also since our model is about training volunteers to read aloud to the children a group of books again and again on a routine basis. It would not be sustainable to have a craft every time they read aloud. our model is simple and sustainable because it focuses only on reading aloud a couple of books on a regular basis and the children take the books home read them with their families and bring them back next time to exchange with another book.
3. We have not outreaching to Dubai Cares we will now thank you
4. We would love it if you could introduce us to the publishers you mentioned so that we can get books from them to use in our libraries.
Thank you again for your suggestions. Please email us at admin@welovereading.org

Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Rana, thanks for sharing the great work that your team has been doing at We Love Reading! It'd be helpful if you can you help clarify what part of this idea is new and untested, and which aspect of this idea is an existing initiative from your organization? i.e. how what strategies/ programs might you use to expand the We Love Reading. In this challenge, we're keen on uncovering new innovations around refugee education. We welcome ideas in all stages of development. This will help us better understand how we can support your current efforts!

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Team

The new part is implementing the model in the Zaatri camp. We only did a pilot last summer. The We Love Reading model has been implemented successfully in Jordan already.
That is why we believe that the We Love Reading model would be great for refugee education at multiple levels. 1. As a new space for learning through books, 2. as a method to relieve trauma for both adults and children, 3. as an informal method of education in a refugee situation