We met with storyteller Nabeelah, at the IRD base camp. Holding her hand was her shy 11-year-old son. Nabeelah updated us on the impact of the program in her neighborhood. According to Nabeelah, school was a rarity for the kids in the camp because it was too far, too hot, and not safe to walk to. However once she started reading aloud to the neighborhood kids, the children have begun spending less time wandering around under the scorching sun and more time sitting indoors reading. They have read the books so many times that most of them have memorized their favorite stories. When we asked Nabeelah why she decided to join the program, she gave us a warm smile and said, “For my children.”
Each storyteller has recognized the unique ways in which the stories have inspired themselves and the children.
Storyteller Hatima told us about how one of the girls in her reading circles would carry around a copy of one of the books and gather children to read to. With a laugh, Hatima remembered walking in to find the child making grand gestures with her hands while reading out loud; they were the same exact movements Hatima would make when telling the stories. “The program gives them creativity,” she said. Hatima, like many of the other storytellers, is excited for where the program will take the children and their imaginations in the weeks to come.
For storyteller Asmaa, the books have instilled in her a renewed desire to write her own stories, and she has encouraged her children to do the same. Some of her kids write about princesses, dragons and fairytales. Others write about their life in Za’atari. Storyteller Fadi described how the morals and lessons told by the stories have become a part of the everyday lives of the children. After handing out to the kids the newest book to their collection, “My Life is Nicer without Smoking,” Fadi heard one of the boys in his circle telling his father that he should quit smoking for his health.
Israa, a 12-year-old who takes part in all of Fadi’s storytelling sessions, quickly opened up a book in her hand when she was asked to read. After diligently reading the words on each page, she would look up and describe in her own words and with hand gestures where the story was going. She admitted that she did not used to read before the storytelling sessions began, but when asked what she liked more, to be read to or to read alone, she replied confidently, “I like reading aloud to the other kids.”