Our story begins the way many journeys end—with a homecoming. When Dr. Rana Dajani, the founder of We Love Reading, returned to Jordan after spending five years abroad, she saw her country with new eyes. During her time abroad, Rana worked extensively with a public library and grew fond of reading with her children. However, she realized that not only were there few libraries in Jordan, but also that Jordanian children didn’t typically read for pleasure. They read for educational and religious purposes rather than for joy or entertainment. This lack of reading extended across the Arab world and many developing countries.
Rana drew on her expertise as a scientist to conduct research on why this was the case and how she could change this aspect of her society. She discovered that children did not read for pleasure simply because they lacked a love for reading. Children who read for pleasure exhibit stronger language skills, better academic performance, and a greater emotional intelligence. Drawing on her research and experience as a mother, Rana found that parents could foster a love of reading by regularly reading aloud to their children starting at a young age.
Training a generation of parents to read aloud is a daunting task, but Rana believes she has a responsibility to serve her community. Driven by the importance of sharing her knowledge, Rana felt called to act. She came up with a goal: to establish a library in every neighborhood in Jordan, starting with her own. Her family joined her in searching for a space where she might read aloud to local children. She wanted somewhere safe and appropriate for families, and a space that can be found in every neighborhood. As she looked around, she realized—why not use the mosque?
Rana’s husband spoke with the imam and explained that she planned to read aloud to the neighborhood children and was hoping to use the mosque as the gathering space, given its focal point in the community. He agreed, and during the Friday prayer announced that a reading session would be held at the mosque the following morning for children between the ages of 4 and 10. Rana brought a selection of books and a number of costumes and puppets. At the end of the session, she distributed the books amongst the children and instructed them to read or be read to every night until the next storytelling session.
The storytelling sessions proved to be wildly successful. At first, the children came because their parents forced them to. But after listening to Rana read the stories with such passion and energy, they quickly fell in love with reading. Every Saturday morning, the children insisted on going to the mosque to read and brought their parents with them.
From these simple gatherings, the idea of We Love Reading transformed into a grassroots movement.
Since 2006, We Love Reading has expanded to over 60 countries around the world, founding 4400+ libraries in a diverse range of communities—rural and urban, as well as refugee camps. Our model remains focused on creating change at the local level by empowering people to be change makers in their own communities.
WLR believes that the best solutions develop within one’s own country and culture. A solution in one culture may not necessarily succeed in another. More importantly, it is essential that the people served also play a role in implementing these solutions, to amplify their voices and strengthen their ability to be change makers. Such attitudes and approaches can build a thriving community and a stable, more prosperous nation.
We Love Reading aims to catalyze long term cultural change through reading and skill development. Our programs help thousands of local women build new capabilities and enable them to act creatively for themselves and their communities. WLR’s reading method inspires children to think independently. Through this process, we can discover our potential to make a positive contribution, however small. The power for change is evident in our movement; its impact is felt in the moment and will last for generations to come.