Major areas of impact
We Love Reading aims to positively impact youth and children throughout Jordan and the Arab world by creating a generation of youth and children who love, enjoy, and respect books while fostering social responsibility and civic engagement through the establishment of a library in every neighborhood in the Arab world.
Early childhood development
We Love Reading’s philosophy is built on careful research about early childhood development. Early childhood is the most important phase in a child’s development, and reading to children at a young age is fundamental to a strong, healthy mind. Children’s brains are still forming during these early years, and connections between neurons must be maintained before they disappear. Reading to children at a young age – even when still in the womb! – helps to maintain and strengthen essential neuronal connections.
Reading impacts not only mental cognition and capabilities, but also social skills and balanced personalities. Reading’s manifold impact is of heightened importance in times of humanitarian crises, such as wars or natural disasters, when trauma affects childhood brain development, the education system is disrupted, and children lack interaction with parents and other adults.
The WLR program targets children ages 4 to 10, building on the knowledge that the earlier a child begins reading, the better. We Love Reading has partnered with international academic institutions including Yale, the University of Chicago, and local universities to conduct studies monitoring the effects of the WLR program on young children. Such studies have included research on how the WLR program affects levels of empathy in children and impacted the psychosocial well-being of children in Jordan’s Za’atari Camp.
At We Love Reading, one of our core values is women’s empowerment. We support the development of women’s leadership within the community by training local women as reading ambassadors and encouraging them to change their community as leaders. We challenge them to critically examine their environment, identify problems and create solutions. Many women we have trained have become social entrepreneurs themselves in projects beyond the WLR library.
Our program provides agency and purpose for the women in refugee camps, allowing them to take some control over their lives in the camp. WLR’s work also encourages 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 in women’s education.
WLR is dedicated to empowering women in the Arab world and beyond, and we’ve participated in conferences such as the Global HerStory Summit in New York and the Women’s Socio-economic Empowerment Conference in Amman to learn more about how we can further support women in the world.
WLR under the Patronage of Taghyeer organization has 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 below.
The “Empower Her” Project
The “Empower Her” Project was a project designed to positively impact girls between the ages of 14 and 16 by developing capacity in girls to act as community leaders and change-makers. This project strives to create a generation of females that love, respect, and believe in themselves.
With the support of LitWorld, WLR held two “Empower Her” workshops, in 2014 and 2015. These workshops took place in three stages: during the first stage, participants worked together to identify challenges facing young girls in Jordan. After the initial workshop, the girls took two weeks to design a solution to the problem they had identified. They collaborated with mentors to create and submit proposals to a team of judges, who selected two winning proposals to test in the community. The girls were given 500JD and one month to enact their solutions. On the last day, participants, mentors, and advisors met to give feedback and hold a general discussion on lessons learned and challenges overcome.
“We read for ourselves, our children, our community, our future.”
This is what we hear again and again from refugees who participate in We Love Reading programs. Many refugee camps struggle to set up proper education systems because of safety concerns, practicality, cost, sustainability, and lack of qualified personnel. As such, many children are not in school for indefinite periods. Even in cases where there is a school, it is often unsustainable and many girls are left out because of culture, work, safety, and lack of value placed in their education. We Love Reading noticed these problems and stepped in to provide a practical and scalable program to address the issues.
In May 2014, We Love Reading launched a pilot program inside the Za’atari Refugee Camp for Syrian refugees in northern Jordan. As of 2016, WLR works in all Syrian refugee camps in Jordan and has 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 for the children, who draw courage from the heroes they read about. WLR’s unique approach establishes agency, purpose, and dignity for the women and men in the camp, allowing them to take some control over their lives in the camp. It also encourages parents to send their children, especially their daughters, to school. The children in these camps step in as champions for reading, which makes it easier for them to catch up later once formal education systems are re-established.
WLR’s program has been the focus of a number of studies on refugee resilience. For information about these studies and more, visit our research and reports page.
“Through reading, I relieve the stress of life and help children to forget their memories of war. Some children with low literacy skills memorize the story and take it to their houses, using the illustrations to read to their brothers and sisters.” (Nisreen Hasan, Azraq Camp)
“At the beginning, I was scared to stand up and read in front of children, but this did not stop me from trying and becoming better at what I am doing.” (Noor Al-Huda, Za’atari Camp – 12 yrs old)
“Ahmad: After the end of the first day training, I asked the trainees if my wife Majd could also attend the second day of training, because Majd has been distinguished in public speaking since she was in school. We attended the training together and held our first reading session right after we took the kits.
Majd: I am Majd, Ahmad’s wife. I have always dreamed of becoming an ambassador. Now, after WLR training, I am a reading ambassador in the camp. I sent the news that my husband and I are now reading ambassadors to my father, who was stuck at the Turkish borders. Right away, he shared with me a poem he wrote about reading.
Ahmad: Through continuous reading, I noticed that kids like stories about animals and farms, because these stories remind them of their life in Syria before war. Some other stories scare them off, so I do not read them again.”
(Majd Qasha’m & Ahmad Alabdullah, Azraq Camp)
“When I read to them, it feels like I am the child, not them. I enjoy the story more than they do. What encourages me to continue reading is happiness of the children and their enthusiasm to listen more and more. Parents in my neighborhood ask me to read to their children and sometimes they borrow stories.” (Shawq Alshahadat, EJC)
Reading aloud to children provides a tool for building resilience and improving psychosocial wellbeing in children and adults. We Love Reading (WLR) is a community-based grassroots program, a model and philosophy for inspiring resilience among adults, youth and children. Children and youth in refugee contexts are out of school and often experience feelings of hopelessness. By training volunteer refugee adults to read fun stories aloud to children in their native language, we give them a medium through which they communicate with parents and caregivers to build a cycle of change and healing. WLR is an evidence-based, human centered model developed in Jordan by local people that is cost-efficient and sustainable.
WLR is scalable through an innovative partnering model allowing the sustainable growth of psychosocial support programming. We provide preventive support early on through our flexible approach.
WLR has won multiple awards for education and wellbeing of refugees. WLR has spread throughout Jordan to more than 1500 neighborhoods and to over 38 countries around the world. WLR has been implemented in Syrian refugee camps and Ethiopia refugee camps. In addition to WLR’s work in the field, we have conducted rigorous academic research on the results of our programming in refugee camps in collaboration with Yale University, Brown University, University of Chicago.
WLR’s success is grounded in:
- emphasis on local in-country networks with expertise in delivering psychosocial support
- early intervention through simple and flexible programming, with the goal of preventing escalation to more serious conditions
- programming based on rigorous research in partnership with top institutions
- psychosocial support run by and for refugees themselves, ensuring sustainability and agency
We Love Reading: A path to building resilience among refugees
A community based psychosocial support program.
- Strengthen the evidence base around psychosocial support programming
- Move towards more scalable psychosocial support interventions
- Collaborating with local actors
- Address heightened Child Protection risks in conflict settings to promote psychosocial wellbeing
- Make psychosocial support programming more inclusive