“We Love Reading” program held a seminar entitled: “The Journey of Change Makers – We Love Reading” under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, in the presence of the Director of the National Library, His Excellency Nidal Ayasrah, and the Representative and a head of the UNESCO office in Jordan, Ms. Min Jeong Kim, on March 11 at the Royal Cultural Center- Amman. This seminar came to celebrate the unique journey of the We Love Reading ambassadors to become change makers, where each of them has a different path, some are evident to others and some are personal. Nevertheless, they are all remarkable, very important and worthy of celebration. Researchers from several international and local universities also shared the findings of the latest collaborative research project; “Theory of change and social impact measurement of We Love Reading program impact on women’s leadership, empowerment, wellbeing, life satisfaction and social networks.”
The findings showed that the reading intervention for children created an opportunity and an environment for relations to be developed between the WLR Ambassadors and the children. Additionally, the life satisfaction and psychological well-being of women increased in the We Love Reading group from baseline to endline. Preliminary analyses of the endline results show that volunteering work diversified women’s personal networks outside the home. On the other hand, mothers of children who took part in WLR in 2021 continue to report higher levels of child attitudes toward reading a year later than mothers of children who didn’t join the program.
The conference activities began with a welcome speech by Dr. Yahya Ayshan, Vice President of the Taghyeer Association, the official umbrella for the “We Love Reading” program, where he talked about the development of the “We Love Reading” program, which began as an idea for a local initiative from the heart of Amman’s neighborhoods in 2006, followed by the establishment of the “Taghyeer” association in 2010 as a legal umbrella for the program. To this day, “We Love Reading” program has spread to 65 countries around the world; It went from an individual initiative based on direct communication to a global program. Dr. Yahya stressed that one of the most important factors for the success of any program is to start locally at the beginning and then spread to the world.
He praised the interesting cooperation with the Korean National Commission for UNESCO. Which launched the Bridge project and with international universities that cooperated with We Love Reading to implement a range of scientific research.
Then the Director of the National Library Nidal Ayasrah who was representing the Ministry of Culture, and attended on behalf of the minister of culture her excellency Haifa Al-Najjar, said that the We Love Reading program comes at a time when the majority of young people have abandoned reading and turned to social media platforms.
In addition to that Ayasrah said: “It is joyful to see initiatives concerned with cultivating a love of reading for fun in children, such as the ‘We Love Reading’ program that trains female reading ambassadors who acquire leadership traits after engaging in it.”
He also mentioned several initiatives undertaken by the Ministry of Culture in order to spread the culture of reading in society.
Apart from this, Ayasra talked about the digital platforms launched by the Ministry of Culture, including the “Kutaba” platform and the national reading campaign platform.
In conclusion, he said, “We hope that the recommendations of this seminar will be promising in creating a new generation that loves reading and takes it as a life path.”
This was followed by a speech by the representing and head of the UNESCO office in Jordan, Ms. Min Jeong Kim.
In addition, she mentioned that UNESCO believes that literacy is a tool for the empowerment and liberation of people, as it improves the quality of life of people and their participation in the labor market.
But despite the technological development and scientific achievements that we have reached, there are more than 700 million people who are unable to read, and two-thirds of them are women and girls.
Ms. Min mentioned that in 2017, We Love Reading won UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize, and through this award, UNESCO praised the We Love Reading methodology for its ability to promote literacy and encourage children to love reading through its simplicity.
Mrs. Min also confirmed that UNESCO praises the approach adopted by We Love Reading, not only to eradicate illiteracy, but also to encourage the love of reading for fun and the work it does regards women’s empowerment, and spreading the values of volunteering, social responsibility, and self-confidence, which results in a generation of lifelong learners, which are the most prominent features that made We Love Reading a distinguished program not only on a local level but on an international level as well.
Then We Love Reading Founder Prof. Rana Dajani started her speech by expressing her gratitude to all We Love Reading’s ambassadors because they are the reason in the success of the program, and the program success is a success for all the ambassadors since they are leaders in this program she stated that most of the ambassadors are women, and she expressed her pride in them because they are the real changemakers.
Dr. Rana spoke about the launch of the “We Love Reading” program and the stages it went through to reach its current form, as well as the evolution of the “We Love Reading” slogan over the years to express the program’s extended impact, which was not only limited to children and cultivated the inner motivation in the child to love reading to become a lifelong learner, but also extended to affect ambassadors and then the entire community.
She also emphasized that the program is based on experts who are the We Love Reading ambassadors, and the program is modified periodically based on WLR ambassadors’ feedback.
She also discussed the deep and extended impact of the program, which is passed on from generation to generation, and mentioned a set of examples for children who grew up with We Love Reading.
She mentioned different aspects of the We Love Reading program’s impact such as: increasing the sense of citizenship and fostering the mentality of I can among female and male ambassadors after their success as We Love Reading ambassadors. We love reading and their departure to become changemakers in their societies.
As the secret sauce for the success of the We Love Reading program has three ingredients:
Firstly; it believes in the individual’s ability to make the change, and the program attempts to perpetuate the “I can” mentality.
Secondly, it is based on common universal shared values, like the love of children, and the love of education, but it promotes and celebrates difference by focusing on reading in the mother tongue.
Finally, it employs technology, but only for grownups. It concentrates on the child’s bond with the paper book when it comes to youngsters.
During her discussion of the results of the scientific research, Prof. Rana expressed that the We Love Reading program created a safe environment to develop relationships between the We Love Reading ambassadors and children. The women who joined the program also showed higher levels of satisfaction with life and well-being. Preliminary analyzes of the results of the second phase show that volunteer work has made women’s personal networks more diverse.
On the other hand, the children participating in the “We Love Reading” program had more positive attitudes and motives towards reading.
The researcher at Yale University, Prof. Catherine Painter-Brick, recorded a video to present part of the research results, The video was broadcast on the Facebook platform.
Lina Qtaishat, Research Project Manager at We Love Reading, took us on a detailed tour of the process of scientific research and data collection, emphasizing that one of the most important pillars of the We Love Reading program is sharing the results of scientific research not only with the local community, but also with the research participants.
She said that the WLR research usually focuses on measuring the impact of the We Love Reading program on the child, but in 2022 the research focus has shifted to studying the impact of the program on We Love Reading ambassadors as well to study the impact on them after they received the We Love Reading training and started holding reading sessions. The project, which was supported by the Korean National Commission for UNESCO, was divided into two parts. The first one is concerned with measuring the impact on empowerment, life satisfaction, well-being, and the view of the volunteer work of female We Love Reading ambassadors.
The second part was a continuation of the research that began in 2021, which is the study of the mother-child relationship and how the mother sees children’s behaviors toward reading.
The next session was a panel discussion with a group of female We Love Reading ambassadors and it was presented by Marwa Al-Fawair, Communication and, Training Manager at We Love Reading, who emphasized the sense of belonging among all members of the We Love Reading family, both We Love Reading ambassadors and team members of the We Love Reading team.
Here are some quotes from the Panel discussion:
1- “This is voluntary work and I don’t do it for money. I do it because this program helped me to find myself and my passion.
Dr. Rana Dajani didn’t say “I” love reading she said “We” love reading, hence there is a participatory, interactive view. We all need to have a spirit of responsibility and a spirit of good citizenship wherever we are anywhere in the world, working for humanity, so, I cannot do anything on my own, but the principle of participatory is necessary. As for me in Jerash Governorate, I started looking for points that would strengthen me and enhance this wonderful program, so I went to the Directorate of Culture in Jerash Governorate to cooperate with public and private schools.
In another context of participatory, when I wrote my story for children, titled The Tree of Stories, I was searching for someone to help me with the drawings. We Love Reading introduced me to another We Love Reading Ambassador who’s also an artist who did the paintings for my book.
I also participated in the national reading campaign which We Love Reading has launched in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture. I took part in the interactive book fair, and I contacted my fellow Ambassadors of We Love Reading, the inspiring and veteran Ms. Jamila Abu Melhem, from Jerash Governorate, and the teacher Mayassa Al-Aqili who teaches young children and tries to insert the love of reading in them. This participation is what strengthened our work, and we always emphasize the importance of teamwork that contributes to the sustainability and continuity of the We Love Reading program. “
Tamam Hiary our Ambassador in Jerash Governate
2- “I am very happy to be part of this program and to be part of us the We Love Reading family, and I always say that an educated person should not only have intellectual stock and information, instead an educated human being is a person who can change and make change around him.
During my initiative entitled “Inspirations”, we tried to change the stereotype about women, by selecting several models from women from diverse cultural backgrounds where the common factor was the love of reading, I was seeking to publicize the program We Love Reading.”
Hadeel Yaseen our Ambassador in Aqaba Governate
3- “I would like to convey my message to every woman, and man, Circumstances do not make an excuse, no matter what happens.
One of the most important challenges that I faced with regards reading was that I was special and I have a disease that affects one in every 1,000 children, as this disease constituted an obstacle in my life, but my love for reading helped me overcome it, as during my time in the hospital I used to read and when I got married and had children I transferred the love reading for my children.”
I cooperated with public libraries and schools to launch my initiative “Today’s reader is tomorrow leader” to encourage people to read with family members and to bring libraries to life.”
Zohor Dghemat our Ambassador in Karak
4- “I work as an orthodontist and I’ve been conducting reading sessions in my clinic for years. The patient’s journey with the orthodontist lasts a long time so use reading to alleviate the fear of children from the clinic by giving them the book and asking them about their favorite quotes and beloved characters in the book on the next visit.”
Nora Odeh our Ambassador in Amman Governate
In the final segment of the seminar, Asma Alrashed our Ambassador in France shared her experience with the We Love Reading program she said: “When I arrived in France from Jordan the first thing I started to do is gather the children and hold reading sessions for them the same as I was doing in the Zaatari camp after receiving the We Love Reading training, however now I’m also working on an initiative that doesn’t only target Syrian refugees like my previous initiative but also targets all refugees around the world”.