We Love Reading not only aims to create a generation of youth and children who enjoy and respect books but to foster social responsibility, civic engagement and enhanced psycho-social well-being through the establishment of a library in every neighborhood in the world.
Our methodology is built from in-depth research on early childhood development. Reading to children from a young age is fundamental to nurturing a strong, healthy mind as it maintains and strengthens essential neuronal connections.
Reading’s manifold impact is of heightened importance in times of crisis, such as war or natural disaster, when trauma impedes a child’s brain development, education is disrupted, and children lack positive, meaningful interactions with parents and other adults.
We partner with academic institutions like Yale University, the University of Chicago, and local universities to conduct studies monitoring the effects of the WLR program on childhood development. As a result of one such study, the WLR program now targets children ages 0 to 10—originally the minimum age was 4 years.
Furthermore, the results of another study have shown that reading books that explore feelings and emotions increases empathic concern as well as prosocial behavior (social conduct that benefits someone else or society, such as sharing or obeying the rules). This has helped inform our children’s book design.
One of our core values is women’s empowerment. By undergoing the Reading Ambassador training, women develop skills and confidence to change their community and become leaders, to critically examine their environment, identify problems, and create solutions. Many women become social entrepreneurs in projects beyond their WLR library. Even those who focus purely on managing their library enjoy a strong sense of fulfillment as they feel they have something to offer their community.
Our work also influences parents to send their girls to school in areas where girls are frequently left out due to culture, work, safety, and lack of value placed on women’s education.
WLR has participated in conferences such as the Global Her Story Summit in New York and the Women’s Socio-Economic Empowerment Conference in Amman to learn more about what more we can do. We have implemented several projects geared towards young girls in Jordan. You can read more about our “Empower Her,” “Be You,” and “A Story of a Picture” projects here.
Many refugee camps struggle to provide proper education systems because of safety concerns, practicality, cost, sustainability, and lack of qualified personnel. As a result, children are not in school, sometimes for years at a time. Even in cases where there is a school, it is often unsustainable, and girls often don’t participate.
In May 2014, We Love Reading launched a pilot program inside Za’atari Refugee Camp for Syrian refugees. We now operate in all Syrian refugee camps in Jordan and have partnered with UNHCR and Plan International to work with South Sudanese refugees in Gambella Camp in Ethiopia. As of today, our 218 refugee camp Reading Ambassadors have read to roughly 3,500 refugee children.
WLR builds resilience in the children, who draw courage from the heroes they read about. Furthermore, the program makes it easier for them to catch up once they reenter a formal education system as reading and educational settings are more familiar and viewed more positively. On the readers’ side, WLR’s unique approach helps the women and men in the camp regain agency, dignity, and purpose.
WLR’s program has been the focus of several studies on refugee resilience. For more, visit our research page.
Reading aloud to children provides a tool for building resilience and improving psychosocial wellbeing in children and adults. Feelings of hopelessness are widely expressed in refugee contexts regardless of age. By training these refugee adults to read fun stories aloud to children in their native language, we give them a medium through which they can communicate to build a cycle of healing.
One study conducted in with Yale University in Za’atari Refugee Camp revealed striking results—notably, overall stress levels in children aged 2–17 years fell from high to near average rates, showing the ability for children living in highly stressful environments to achieve lower stress levels through the WLR program. Their emotional state and ability to cooperate peacefully with one another also greatly improved.
By incorporating themes on specific issues like environmental protection and conservation and respect for people with disabilities, our books raise children and readers’ awareness around these concepts.
Children in particular display positive behavioral changes. For example, a study on the effect of promoting environmental awareness found children to be more mindful around water consumption, electricity usage, and littering. This is especially promising given that Jordan faces serious water shortages as one of the most water scarce countries in the world; has few energy sources and produces less than 10% of its own energy; and has poor waste collection and processing infrastructure.