My name is Rana Dajani and I am an assistant professor at the Hashemite University in Jordan. I lived in the U.S. for 5 years with my children. We had worked in the states with the public library in our town extensively. When we came back to our country (Jordan), we realized that there are no libraries in Jordan, so we took it upon ourselves to make our own library.
We developed a project with a long term goal of "a library in every neighborhood" similar to what is present in the States. Our project started with a pilot project in our own neighborhood. We first needed a place, so we figured that every neighborhood had a mosque, making the place secured. Then we got some charity money and went around the bookstores looking for books in Arabic for children that were appealing in terms of context, illustrations and language.
The books were chosen on purpose not to contain any religious inclinations. To our surprise we found a good number of books that fit the description. Receiving gracious discounts from the bookstores, we went ahead and bought around 100 books. We announced in the Friday's prayers that there will be a storytelling session the following day on Saturday for one hour in the morning for children (both genders) from 4 to 9 years old (no need for adult supervision). I had obtained a number of costumes (clown, old woman, etc.) and a number of puppets. Around 25 children showed up the next day. We read 3 stories using animations and acting and had a really great time. Then we handed out all the books we had bought. The children were supposed to take the books home and read them every night or be read to by a parent every night until the next storytelling session, which was once every two weeks (to keep the suspense). We did not need a book case since all books were given out each time. It was a huge success!! We have been doing this storytelling session since January, 2006. Our average number of children are 35 per session. We have bought around 500 books. The parents tell us that their children wake up every Saturday and practically drag them to the mosque for the storytelling session. Our children are from the neighborhood, so they are able to walk to the session; no need for transportation, no fear for the children. The most amazing thing is that the children have developed a culture of literacy! They discuss the books they read and recommend to each other what books to read and what author to read from. Some have never skipped a session, and others come and go. Some books aren't returned, but that is fine because we know they are in someone's home being read.
The whole objective of our project is to promote the love of reading in children. As research has proven, the best time to plant that seed is before 9 years of age. If children develop the love to read, we will have given them the best tool for success, because now they can learn and develop whatever they want on their own. I'm sure I don't have to go into detail the advantages of reading.
Having a library in the neighborhood is the key to succeeding in planting the seed because it is accessible and easy. The children can work on it by themselves because most adults in our region do not read and may disregard the importance of reading and not go to any extra effort to help encourage their children to read. This is all solved by our "library in every neighborhood" concept. Also it does not take much of a commitment upon the storyteller. It is only 2 hours a month! The efforts are minimal compared to the results reaped.