Huge efforts have been made to improve the level of education in the Arab world, but much of that effort has focused on eradicating illiteracy while reading for pleasure has largely been ignored on a national planning level.
It has long been established that reading is essential to the linguistic development and cognitive skills of children. Equally important is the way in which reading stimulates their imagination and studies have shown that recreational reading also fosters empathy.
In Jordan, parents and schools tend to emphasise the importance of academic learning. For many parents, children’s school marks and exam results are what really count. Recreational reading is not considered a top priority. The availability of original material in Arabic written for children also lags behind English language books.
Jordan’s illiteracy rate stands at 4 percent according to UN figures, a relatively low figure compared to other countries in the region. But Jordan lacks adequate public places for reading with libraries under-utilised and not regularly updated.
We Love Reading was established in 2006 with the aim of promoting recreational reading. It began with reading allowed storytelling sessions for children in mosques. Today, the We Love Reading programme aims to foster a love of reading for children through reading aloud sessions in mosques, churches, schools, community centres, hospitals and at the Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan.
Taghyeer has also developed a number of books in Arabic with messages for children on conservation, energy and littering. Taghyeer’s long-term goal is to have a library in every neighbourhood.
The organisation has now set up 400 libraries across Jordan and trained 800 women to read aloud to the children. Taghyeer has reached over 15,000 children so far.
Photos: Abdulrhem Arjan/Stars Foundation