We Love Reading

Country Profile: Jordan


7,215,000 (2013)

Official Language


Poverty headcount ratio at $2 PPP (% of population):

2% (2013)

Access to primary education, total net enrolment rate (NIR)

87.52% (2012)

Total youth literacy rate (15 – 24 years)

Total: 99.23%, Male: 99.11%, Female: 99.37% (2015)

Adult literacy rate (15 years and over)

Total: 98.01%, Male: 98.51%, Female: 97.49%. (2015)

Statistical sources

UNESCO Institute for Statistics

Programme Overview

Programme TitleWe Love Reading - “A Library in Every Neighbourhood”
Implementing OrganizationTaghyeer (national NGO)
Language of InstructionArabic and English
FundingUSAID, UNICEF, Plan International, Shams Ma’an, UNHCR, Thomson Reuters, LitWorld, Aramex, Norwegian Refugee Council, RTI International, Synergos, Ministry of Education of Jordan, OpenIdeo, UKAID, Microsoft, Fetzer Institute, NAFFA International, Brown University, Qatar University, University of Chicago, Harvard University, Yale University and Hashemite University
Programme PartnersPartners in Jordan:
Hashemite University; Amman Municipality; Injaz‐Junior Achievement; Reliance Co.; Ruwwad Community Development Organization; Dar Al Manhal (publisher); Business Development Center; Drive to Read; Women Microfund; Arabic book Program/US embassy Jordan; Children’s Museum Jordan; Zaha Cultural Center; Queen Rania Teachers Academy; authors Abeer Taher and Taghreed Najjar.
International Partners:
Mother Child Education Foundation (ACEV) and Hüsnü Özyeğin Foundation, Turkey; New Haven Public Library, New Haven, CT USA; World Innovation Summit in Education, Qatar; Mercy Corps; Save the Children; Yale University; Neurosuite Clinic, University of Chicago; Columbia University; International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY); Global Education Forum; International Reading Association; Scholastic (publisher); Clinton Global Initiative; Thomson Reuter Trust.
Annual Programme Costs $100,000
Annual programme cost per learner: $50
Date of InceptionFebruary 2006 – ongoing

Country Context and Background

Literacy levels in Jordan improved consistently up to 2003. Since then, the situation has become less stable, a result largely of the country’s status as a refuge for people fleeing surrounding countries. In 2007, there were 273,873 illiterate adults in Jordan, compared to 286,602 in 2010. Between 2010 and 2011, the number of illiterate adults decreased notably, to 163,948 (UNESCO Institute for Statistics). The 2015 census found that 9.1 per cent of residents aged over 13 were illiterate. Jordan’s literacy rate is the highest in the Arab world, a result, in part, of the commitment of the Jordanian government to resolutely address the country’s literacy challenges. This commitment can be traced back to the launch of the Adult Learning and Illiteracy Elimination Programme (ALIEP) in 1952.

Education is compulsory in Jordan for children aged between 6 and 15, but, as recent examples show, reading is not equally valued in all Arab countries. According to Arabia News, Arab adults, on average, read only half a page per year for pleasure. This alarmingly low figure corresponds to the results of UNESCO reports published in 1991 and 2005, as well as the US Working Paper for the 2004 G8 Summit, which stated that Arab readers average six minutes reading in a whole year. The lack of interest in reading is due to a lack of reading practice and a failure to cultivate reading habits. Evidence shows that reading aloud is the key in fostering the pleasure of reading (Trelease, 2013). Jordanian society has yet to realize that a fully literate society is essential for economic development and social integration.

The Organization

Taghyeer is a Jordanian non-governmental organization (NGO) that, through various programmes, works to develop, train and encourage women, young people and children in the fields of education, particularly literacy, entrepreneurship and health. The aim is to encourage them to change their attitudes and become more responsible citizens with greater control over their lives. The model for We Love Reading (WLR) was developed in Jordan and has since spread to other countries, in the Arab world and beyond. Rana Dajani, the founder of this programme, is an associate professor and former director of the Centre for Studies at the Hashemite University of Jordan.

Programme Overview


WLR aims to have a positive impact on children, adolescents and their families throughout Jordan and the Arab world by creating a generation of children who love reading books. The programme seeks to achieve this by establishing a library in every neighbourhood in Jordan, supported by trained reading ambassadors. The ambassadors read to children aged between 4 and 10 years old in their local communities, using age-appropriate reading material. WLR also seeks to promote the value of reading more widely, changing attitudes and encouraging volunteering among older age groups. The programme’s main target groups are children, adolescents (aged 15 to 24 years), adults, families, women and girls, though the organization also addresses the needs of a great number of minority groups and people in need. These can be out-of-school children, unemployed and poor people, people with disabilities or minorities such as ethnic groups, migrants and nomads, as well as refugees and former convicts. The organization has also worked with other NGOs, Plan International and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to bring We Love Reading to refugee camps in Ethiopia. The organization considers reading to be a shared value and a means to achieve the common goal of mobilizing adults and educating young children. Therefore, the approach aims to build the capacity of the younger generation to build a foundation for further personal development. We Love Reading runs a web page, which functions as a platform to support the dissemination of the model to other regions (http://www.welovereading.org/).

Aims and Objectives

Main aim:


Programme Implementation

The Library and Reading Sessions

The ‘library’ is established in an existing, commonly used public space. This location should be easily accessible for children in the neighbourhood, which is why mosques and other community centres are usually selected for the reading sessions. The book collection consists of as many books as can be gathered through donations from individuals or organizations. A read-aloud session is held every weekend and afterwards the books are loaned to the children to read at home. Later, the books are returned so that other children can borrow them. By 2016, more than 2,000 We Love Reading libraries had been established in Jordan in the following governorates: Amman, Zarqa’a, Karak, Jerash, Ajloun, Irbid, Aqaba, Tafeleh, Madaba, Balqa, Ma’an, Mafraq, Azraq and Wadi Araba.

Parents are actively involved in WLR. They support the readers and attend reading sessions in the mosque as well as reading to their children at home. Some children drag their parents out of bed at the weekend to attend one of the storytelling sessions, helping stimulate a positive attitude to reading among parents.


Books Read to the Children

The books read to the children are written in Arabic and reflect the children’s own cultural background. The stories are easy to understand and show the children how to build positive attitudes and apply best behaviours in their everyday life. It is also hoped that these lessons are transmitted to parents and the community. The books are all age-appropriate and fictional.

Recent research shows that adults who read literary fiction are more empathetic than those who read non-fiction, or who do not read at all (Bal and Veltkamp, 2013; Kid and Castano, 2013). In addition to being read to, the children perform activities related to the stories in the book.

WLR’s core belief is that the ability to read can change behaviour and develop critical thinking skills. It seeks too to address the lack of Arabic content and books that reflect Arab identity and traditions. More stories about the environment and the conservation of water and energy are being developed for the reading sessions in Jordan, while a new series of high-quality children's books has been produced by talented Jordanian writers, illustrators, designers, editors and education consultants. So far, We Love Reading has developed more than 30 stories for children aged 4–6 and 7–10. The themes of the books include: environment protection, social cohesion, disabilities, gender equality, non-violence and the refugee crisis. Carol Sakoin, Vice President of Scholastic International, described the books as ‘amazing’ with ‘very high-quality illustrations and production’.

A recent study in collaboration with Hashemite University reports on the WLR programme’s use of social stories in various Jordanian communities on the topic of environmental problems. Results indicate the effectiveness of this informal educational intervention, showing an increase in children’s knowledge of environmental issues and a positive change in their behaviours (Mahasneh, Romanowski and Dajani, 2017).

WLR has launched an international book campaign and will be selling at local bookstores in Jordan, online, as well to educational institutions and other NGOs. All proceeds will be used to further develop the programme.


Recruitment and Training of Volunteers

There are several ways of engaging as a volunteer for WLR, such as becoming a reading ambassador, advocating for reading, opening a library or doing other outreach work. Parents are considered volunteers if they attend the WLR read-aloud sessions and read to their children the books they bring home.

Recruitment of Reading Ambassadors

The reading ambassadors are recruited through word of mouth, youth organizations, women’s organizations, the programme website, social media, public events, and so on. The volunteers recruited do not have to be highly educated, but they do have to love children and reading and be motivated to volunteer. This implies an ability to be responsible and passionate about their work. They also have to be part of the same neighbourhood as the families, so that they are trusted and welcomed.

Training of Reading Ambassadors

Taghyeer is in charge of the training for the volunteers, which is offered all year round and lasts for two days. The focus of the training is on skill-building in multiple areas, including teaching, communication, confidence building and interpersonal skills. The participants also learn about time management, planning and financing. They are instructed in how to set up and run libraries, as well as in how to read aloud.

Specific themes covered by the leadership training include basic literacy and numeracy skills, advanced literacy, life skills, family literacy, intergenerational learning and gender equality, as well as supporting literate environments and sustainable community development. A course on creative thinking and time management encourages open-mindedness, and includes learning how to formulate persuasive arguments to defend a perspective and how to receive constructive criticism and contribute to debates conducted during the training.


Training Methodologies

A self-developed curriculum and manual are used by the programme facilitator, together with a professional trainer specializing in reading aloud. The training is highly interactive and includes debates and presentations dealing with the leadership role of women in the community, as well as visual and breathing exercises. The participants practise reading aloud in front of each other after receiving training in public speaking skills, eye contact, control of the voice and body language. The women are asked to work in teams, to share different perspectives and to find solutions to challenges. Empathy, respect and acceptance are core values fostered by the training, which enables the women to develop respectful and inclusive approaches to discussion and to become role models for each other.

A multiplier effect is achieved through peer-to-peer training as trained reading ambassadors are asked to train other prospective ambassadors . This efficient process keeps costs low and maximizes the number of librarians trained. After implementing the model over a three-month period the readers are assessed through shared personal reflections. At the end of the training they receive a certificate.


Online Training

WLR has developed an online training course for individuals who want to become WLR ambassadors and have no access to a partner NGO or to formal WLR training. These individuals can contact WLR. Once WLR verifies that they are not organizations it will send them the link and password to take the online course. The course includes a shorter version of the WLR training and advice on what kinds of children’s books to buy. After completion of the course they receive a certificate.

We Love Reading Licence Programme

The licence is an indication that the individual or organization is accredited by WLR to access WLR resources and to implement the WLR programme in different areas of the world. The licensed organizations are allowed to conduct WLR training. The licence needs to be renewed yearly. This year, Plan International and the UN Refugee Agency purchased the licence and brought WLR’s programme to Africa. More such partnerships are expected in the future.

Training Fees

Taghyeer used to offer free training, but not every participant decided to become a librarian in the end. In order to identify individuals with a greater commitment, the organization started to charge a modest fee for the training. This income could be spent on improving the efficiency of the programme, which resulted in better libraries in the long run.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Every reading ambassador has to fill out an annual survey, detailing the number of participants, categorized by gender, the number of stories read, and the frequency and duration of the sessions. The progress is locally, regionally and internationally monitored by a follow-up assessment as well as by reports from the volunteer readers, who keep a diary and share their successes and challenges on Facebook. Their feedback is incorporated into the training and used to improve the process and remove irrelevant parts, and to design a more efficient programme. The impact of the programme is assessed by qualitative studies, which include focus group discussions and interviews with parents, children and reading ambassadors. WLR members organize visits to the libraries as well, where they take pictures and conduct interviews.

With the support of an educational specialist from the Hashemite University, WLR has produced a report on the impact of reading environment-related stories on the way in which children related to their own environment. Another study shows an improvement in the leadership and social entrepreneurship skills of adults who have participated in the training for and implementation of the WLR library in their neighbourhood. The programme’s impact on behavioural change is currently being assessed in collaboration with USAID and the University of Chicago, with focuses on social inclusion and empathy. There have been no systematic evaluations of the improvement of literacy skills among participants. WLR measures its success in terms of how many children it engages in reading groups. Through individual interviews with children, WLR found that the sessions have a long-lasting impact on young people and influence their decision-making throughout adulthood.

WLR has developed a mobile app to improve the efficiency of its monitoring and evaluation system and to create a virtual community among its ambassadors. The app is in two languages (Arabic and English). However, the icons can be understood regardless of language and it is compatible for both Android and Apple. To use the WLR mobile app, the partner organization enters information on the WLR ambassadors into the mobile app and invites the ambassadors to download it. The WLR ambassadors use the app to report the time and date of reading circles, the number of children attending, challenges and success stories.

Impact and Achievements

International Recognition and Expansion

The programme has spread to 33 countries worldwide (among them Algeria, Argentina, Australia Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Canada, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Greece, Iraq, Kenya Lebanon, Palestine, Malaysia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda and United Arab Emirates) and has reached 100,000 individuals throughout the world. WLR can be considered a social movement.

The success of WLR’s model has been recognized globally. WLR won the 2009–10 Arab World Social Innovator Award from Synergos, the Library of Congress Literacy Award’s Best Practices in 2013, the King Hussein Medal of Honor in 2014, the WISE Award in 2015, the Stars Impact Award in 2015, and the Open IDEO Award for Best Idea for Education for Refugees in 2015. The programme was also a finalist in the Ahel al-Himmeh Award, an initiative launched by Queen Rania of Jordan to recognize individuals from the Jordanian community who have made a difference through volunteer work in their communities. The programme was given complimentary membership of the Clinton Global Initiative 2010, and was chosen, along with MIT open courseware as a case study in a book on innovation in education commissioned by the WISE Qatar Foundation by Charles Leadbeater. This was published in 2012.

Impact on Children

The children develop their own reading culture. They discuss and recommend books and authors to each other. Parents state that their children exhibit improved self-confidence and academic skills, and are more likely to ask for books than toys. Most of the children recognize and are able to name authors on their own. Older children who no longer attend the sessions remain readers. The programme also cultivates creativity in children. WLR distributed copies of English books to different neighbourhoods. In those areas in Jordan without libraries, where children had not been read to on a routine basis, children did not read the distributed books, because they felt intimidated and considered reading a burden. In contrast, in neighbourhoods where libraries were established, children were enthusiastically reading the books; an indication of a successful programme.

Impact on Individuals and the Community

Reading in Jordan has traditionally been seen as a waste of time outside academic or religious contexts. WLR is showing people that reading is valuable as a leisure activity. As time passes, the community also starts to invest in books and to take responsibility for maintaining the library.

In Jordan, WLR has trained 2,000 women, created 1,500 libraries and has had a direct impact on 40,000 children (60 per cent of them girls), indirectly reaching another 100,000 individuals (June 2017). The ongoing interviews with children and the qualitative assessments in collaboration with the University of Chicago have shown preliminarily that, in a short period of time, young participants enjoyed reading more and grew to respect books; they took advantage of the library and become more empathetic.

Impact on Boys and Men

Boys who participate in WLR sessions learn to respect the leadership position of women. WLR’s assumption is that women’s empowerment involves not only mobilizing women but also educating males to support and encourage them. This model is innovative in educating boys about feminism so that they grow up as supportive sons, husbands, brothers and fathers.

Impact on Women and Girls

One of We Love Reading’s core values is women’s empowerment. It aspires to support a gradual and natural development of women leaders, training women as reading ambassadors and encourage them to make an impact in their community. Every woman in charge of a library becomes a social entrepreneur representing WLR. As a result, people start to view these women as leaders. In the mosques they are accepted as mediators for promoting literacy. Female Palestinian refugees have reported that they feel respected and supported by their community.

The women also gain knowledge from reading more literature, which improves their leadership skills. In the longer term, the programme aims to create a skilled and creative generation of girls who will become empowered leaders and innovators. We have designed a series of programmes to reach out to young girls. One example is the Story of a Picture project, which took place at the Za’atari refugee Camp. WLR implemented the photo project for 11 girls aged between 12 and 17 inside the Za’atari refugee camp in 2017. The project aims to give the girls a chance to relate their lives and stories through their own photos. The girls actively participated in the sessions, shared their stories with each other and felt more comfortable with one another after the project. Borooj, a 14-year-old participant said: ‘When we first came to Za’atari it was a desert and we cultivated it with different types of plants. So, just as we transformed the desert to green lands, we can make Jordan our new home.’ She was referring to Marwa’s photograph of the flowers in front of her caravan. A pilot study conducted by Yale University found that the psycho-social status of the women in Zaatri camp implementing the WLR programme was significantly improved.

Impact on Refugees

In May 2014, We Love Reading launched a pilot programme inside the Za’atari Refugee Camp for Syrian refugees in northern Jordan. In 2016, the We Love Reading programme was introduced in all Syrian refugee camps in Jordan and some camps outside the country. As of today, approximately 3,500 refugee children have been read to by 218 refugee camp reading ambassadors. Nisreen Hasan, an ambassador at the Azraq Camp, says: ‘Through reading, I relieve their life stresses and make them forget their war memories. Some illiterate children memorize the story and take it to their houses to read to their brothers and sisters using the illustrations.’ Dr. Rana Dajani describes the unique nature of the programme in this way: ‘We Love Reading provides a purpose, gives agency and empowers refugees to take control of their lives, contrary to traditional international development programs that unintentionally promote dependency...The impact is that WLR becomes a tool for alleviating mental stress and increasing well-being and resilience.’

We Love Reading is implemented through Plan International in Gambella refugee camp, where over 332,000 South Sudanese refugees are hosted and the school enrolment rate is low. Forty of the trained reading ambassadors have established libraries in different locations throughout the camp, from partner-run, child-friendly spaces to shaded gardens in front of their homes. By the second week of the project, more than 1,000 children were attending reading circles. Two months later, the project was serving 2,000 children. In the long run, the aim is for We Love Reading to provide a much-needed space to preserve traditional stories from their homelands.

An independent evaluation of WLR’s work, conducted by Integrated in Amman, found that 95 per cent of the WLR volunteers found the programme had cultivated a love of reading among children. This was evident through child engagement, attendance at reading sessions, inviting friends to sessions, requesting multiple books, and investing in buying books. The other 5 per cent said they were not in a position to judge effectively because they had implemented a small number of sessions, or because they had small numbers of children attending. Interestingly, all parents found that the programme had positively impacted on their children. Moreover, 75 per cent of volunteers witnessed positive change in children’s behaviour and attitudes after attending the sessions, with most stating that children became less aggressive, more quiet and disciplined, and less shy and fearful. The 25 per cent who did not report such changes referred to their inability to make such an assessment. Volunteers also highlighted benefits for themselves, including increased self-confidence, strengthened character, positive thinking towards reading, the ability to deal with children, and the ability to help children at the psycho-social level.



The biggest problem facing most non-profit organizations in developing countries is accessing the grassroots and engaging local people. WLR uses a grassroots approach to build the capacities of one person in each neighbourhood who reads to children, ensuring that a passion for reading is transmitted to the next generation over time. Reading is used as a means to support children to become independent thinkers and making them aware that people can learn from others while maintaining pride in their own culture and heritage.

Another major challenge within the programme has been to raise funds and find appropriate books for the children. The books are bought through grants or are donated by other organizations. WLR’s book development project and book campaign were launched in an attempt to achieve financial sustainability. All books are screened by WLR to make sure they are age-appropriate and of high quality.

As the number of children in the community attending the sessions increases, WLR continuously needs new volunteers, but it is hard to recruit them. Before the training starts many participants lack proficient reading skills. WLR supports these learners in improving their reading skills. The volunteers have to show high commitment in practising reading children’s books with family or friends before the read-aloud sessions. A further challenge is combating the remaining stigma associated with illiteracy.


The WLR model is innovative on multiple levels:

1) Storytelling is deeply rooted in Arab culture. WLR takes a systematic approach to harnessing this tradition in order to motivate people to practise reading.

2) The idea of community involvement and volunteerism is a new concept in Islamic Development Bank (IDB) member countries, especially for women.

3) The model also serves as a platform for dissemination of awareness programmes including hygiene, conservation of energy and water, etc..

4) Research has shown that a mother can stimulate good habits in the daily life of her young child (for example, on health and environmental protection) if she reads to the child regularly.

5) The WLR model is sustainable thanks to the women’s management of the libraries, which is why all the credit goes to them and not to WLR. This empowers the women and helps them to overcome the dominance of men in mosques by taking over leadership roles for the libraries in the mosque.

6) While our read aloud programme adheres to the traditional model of paper copies and face-to-face interaction, WLR has also used technology, for example, the online mobile app and the online training programme.

Lessons Learned

WLR states that every person who starts a library helps them to advance the model by sharing their personal experience. As the programme grows, the social entrepreneurship aspect of the training is increasing in importance.

WLR considers books an important tool to enhance literacy, and believes the key to improving literacy to lie in building reading capacities and storytelling experiences. For the volunteers it is crucial to share the experiences they gained during the storytelling sessions. As they live in different places, the appropriate tool for this exchange proved to be a Facebook platform. This means that more ideas and suggestions can be raised and areas for improvement can be more readily identified.

Developing the programme at a grassroots level adds an important dimension to WLR, both in terms of sustainability and legitimacy. It has been clear, throughout the implementation process, that close collaboration with the WLR ambassadors and the targeted communities is key to ensuring the success of the program. The solutions are specially tailored to each culture, rather than imported through a global, ‘one-size-fits-all’ model.

Throughout the implementation process, WLR learned that it is important to develop, refine and reiterate the model until the simplest, best-evidenced formula is reached. Starting small and creating solutions building on people and their capacities, and developing solutions that empower participants, is key to success.

Another key element to the programme’s success is its focus. By maintaining focus on reading aloud, and not adding other activities, WLR has developed an expertise and niche that has proven solutions and is able to maintain excellence in its activities. Refusing to compromise on quality has also contributed to the overall longevity and success.

The biggest lesson learned (which was also a success) was the importance of ensuring that WLR continues as a local solution to the lack of reading in communities. Another main lesson learned is that real change takes time; it is a long journey to progress, but it has to start with the first step. It is also important to remember that ‘human capital development takes a generation’ and slow progress is still progress. The impact of the WLR is both short-term and long-term, and will be felt for decades.


Certain activities are engaged in to maintain a sustainable financial situation; for example, training services, the selling of books and fundraising. The programme uses and leverages local resources, such as volunteers, venues and books, instead of relying on external resources and ideas. This turns the local community into a stakeholder in the success of the library.

The WLR approach is easily replicable, particularly in rural areas, as there are only a few requirements, such as a trained reader, a small selection of books, a comfortable location and enthusiastic participants.

Moreover, WLR has developed and maintained diverse partnerships, locally and regionally, as well as internationally. In order to advance the WLR model, the organization has established multi-stakeholder relationships by working with local and private businesses as well as government. Furthermore, the model is being adopted in the Syrian refugee camps in Jordan as a way not only to foster a love of reading among refugee children, but also to help them to cope with the frustrations and hardships of camp life. The libraries support a network for communication among library leaders and camp authorities and provide a space within which people can connect with each other.

Another aspect of our sustainability is that We Love Reading is setting a new standard for Jordan and the Arab world by offering its manual for NGOs to use in their programme assessment. WLR is also developing a paper in collaboration with other NGOs titled ‘Advising New NGOs and the Donors Who Will Support Them: How Can We Create a Roadmap for NGOs to Develop a Sustainable Financial Model’.



Rana Dajani
Founder and Director of Taghyeer
38 Dijlah Street, Amman, Jordan
Email: admin (at) welovereading.org
Website: http://www.welovereading.org

Last Update: 5 September 2017