Dr. Rana Dajani is a Jordanian molecular biologist, a 2017-2018 Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study and founder of the non-profit organization “We Love Reading.” Amin Marei, Associate Director of the Middle East Professional Learning Initiative (MEPLI) at Harvard Graduate School of Education recently sat down with Dr. Dajani to learn more about “We Love Reading.”
As a scientist, Dr.Dajani knows the importance of observation and research in coming up with solutions to problems. She observed that many children in the Middle East region do not read for pleasure and tend to associate reading with schoolwork. She knows the essential role reading plays in instilling a love of learning and in creating a brighter future for children and their societies, so she set out to find a way to get children to enjoy reading.
Through research, she found that reading aloud to children is one very effective solution to tackle this problem. Accordingly, she embarked on her journey of promoting reading by founding “We Love Reading.”
The “We Love Reading” model is simple. The organization trains adults to read aloud to children from their community in an interactive and engaging way. These adults choose books in the children’s native language and regularly read aloud to them in a public space. With this simple yet powerful idea, “We Love Reading” has now spread to 39 countries around the world.
Being the scientist that she is, Dr. Rana also invited researchers to study the impact of “We Love Reading”. This simple model has proven to be highly impactful. Children began to enjoy reading and started asking their parents to read to them; thus, becoming change-makers in their own homes. Moreover, the researchers found improvements in children’s cognitive abilities, empathy levels and increased prosocial behaviors such as caring for the environment. As for the volunteers, they became empowered and respected community members and social entrepreneurs, able to come up with solutions to the problems around them. Third, the community as a whole grew closer and began investing in similar projects that benefit the community.
When asked what individuals who are looking to make a difference can do, Dr. Rana gave three simple tips:
- Start by yourself and read more so that you can become a role model for those around you
- Read to children in your workplace, community, or family for around 15 minutes per day
- Identify challenges in your own community and their root cause and then come up with a solution, regardless of how small, and go forth and do it
It is important to note that Boston based “Reach Out and Read” nonprofit organization is another entity doing substantial work in supporting children’s reading. “Reach Out and Read” gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together.
Watch the full interview with Dr. Dajani to learn more about “We Love Reading”.