Jordanian We Love Reading has been chosen as the recipient of the 2017 UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize under the theme of ‘literacy in a digital world.’ The prize, consisting of a sum of US $20,000, a medal, and a certificate, honours outstanding contributions made to literacy, with special consideration given to the use and dissemination of mother-tongue languages. The prize will be presented at an official ceremony at UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris on 8 September, International Literacy Day.
Founded in 2006 by Dr Rana Dajani, We Love Reading (WLR) is an innovative model that provides a practical, cost efficient, sustainable, grassroots approach that involves women, men, youth and the community to increase reading levels among children by focusing on the read aloud experience to plant the love of reading. The We Love Reading(WLR) program constitutes training local women and youth to hold read aloud sessions in public spaces in their neighbourhoods. WLR chooses books that are age-appropriate, attractive, neutral in content, and written in the mother tongue language of the child. Using this framework, WLR has developed 30 Arabic-language children’s books focused on themes like environmental conservation, gender, refugees, non-violence, disabilities, and social inclusion. This has begun developing a culture of literacy among the children – they discuss and recommend books and authors to their friends, and parents say that their children exhibit higher self-confidence and academic achievement, and that they are likely to buy and read books rather than toys.
In addition to this, WLR empowers women, men and youth readers to become leaders and social entrepreneurs in their communities; builds ownership in the children and community members; and serves as a platform for raising awareness on issues such as health and environment.
WLR has trained 2000 women and men, created 1500 libraries, directly impacted 40,000 children (60% girls) and indirectly impacted 100,000 individuals in Jordan. It has partnered with local and private businesses and government organizations to spread the WLR model across 33 countries including Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iraq, Tunisia, Turkey, Thailand, Mexico, Malaysia, Uganda, Germany and Azerbaijan.
WLR has tangible outcomes in transforming, in a short period of time, a whole generation of children into readers who love, enjoy, and respect books through the establishment of a library in every neighbourhood in the world, whose impact on development of society is immeasurable.