Getting Children to Read with Dr. Rana Dajani
“Gaining knowledge is the first step to wisdom, sharing it is the first step to humanity.”
It can’t be overstressed how big a role reading plays in our lives and in our development as individuals. A very popular adage says: ‘Reading is to the brain what exercise is to the body,’ which is exactly why it is a habit best developed at a young age. But there’s a catch! How do you get children accustomed to books which for them are nothing but a bundle of papers to distract them from their playtime or more recently, the gadgets that they are hooked to. This week we have a Molecular Biologist from Jordan with the answer, our hero without a cape Dr. Rana Dajani.
Dr. Rana is a Professor and Scientist at a University but she makes sure that her role is beyond the classroom and the lab. She is serving the community around her by imparting universal values and is reaching out to share knowledge with children.
After graduating from the U.S. she returned to Jordan. Once back, Dajani realised that Jordan has no public libraries unlike the U.S. After research, she realised that children who read for pleasure grow up to exhibit stronger language skills, better academic performance, and greater emotional intelligence. Thus, she set out to start a program that would initiate a love for reading in young children.
“Don’t just dream about success. Work for it!’’
She started visualising and dreaming about having a reading session in every neighbourhood in Jordan. She found the perfect place for it; every neighbourhood has a mosque and it is not in use for half of the time. The Imam was very pleased with her idea and soon it became a communal initiative.
The children fell in love with learning, they got to take a book home and they became champions of reading in their own home. They started asking their parents to read to them and also started reading out to siblings and friends. The spirit of love for reading was spread throughout the neighbourhood.
After 3 years of experimenting and optimizing, she established a non-profit organization to spread her mission beyond her neighbourhood. She started training men and women to do the same in other neighbourhoods, which is now running in over 55 countries around the world, founding more than 4400 libraries in a diverse range of communities- rural, urban, as well as refugee camps.
Even the Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t slowed the ‘We Love Reading’ ambition. They have created an online platform to reach the people whom they cannot reach in person. The online platform supports two languages: Arabic and English.
Fostering a culture of literacy in the Middle East is very important, it is one way of giving rise to the children’s future when they are surrounded by high intensity conflicts, induced displacement, within and across international borders. Dr. Rana has made reading and learning accessible to refugee children too. Dr.Rana, thus, is a truly inspiring change maker and hero. Her efforts to encourage reading and imparting knowledge are truly laudable.