The Islamic scientist who made the world read

A Jordanian molecular scientist has socially empowered communities through reading with her "We Love Reading" foundation.

Rana Dajani reading stories to children

With the ‘We love Reading’ project, Rana Dajani seeks to encourage reading habits in children. / Photo: We Love Reading

The Woman Post | Maria Lourdes Zimmermann

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Rana Dajani is a Jordanian-born PhD in molecular biology, an expert in genetics and a globally recognized social entrepreneur. Considered one of the most influential researchers in the Islamic world, Dajani was ranked 12th among the 100 most influential Arab women in 2015 and that same year she was inducted into the Hall of Fame for the most recognized Scientific Women on the planet for her contributions to the science.

The list of recognitions, scholarships and awards is endless, but Rana Dajani shares her time between science and laboratories, classes with university students and the animation of reading with thousands of children around the world thanks to 'We love Reading', a nonprofit organization that motivates the children of the world to read, uniting families through letters, sheets of paper and illustrations and creating social leaders capable of solving problems in their communities thanks to books.

Encouraging reading in Jordan

Encouraging reading in Jordan. Photo: 'We Love Reading'

As a scientist, Dr. Dajani knows more about the importance of observing and has based her life on finding solutions through research. She is a world leader in searching for clues and it was precisely this that led her to realize that many children in the Middle East region did not read for pleasure and tended to associate reading with schoolwork. When Rana came back to her native Jordan, after five years of studying, she sadly saw the reality: her country had few libraries, children did not read and she had a lot to contribute, she worked for years in a public library and motivated among the children the desire for recreational reading.

She knows the essential role that reading plays in instilling a love for learning and creating a brighter future for children and their societies, so she set out to find a different way for children to enjoy reading.

Investigating, Dr. Dajani realized that reading in company is different, that reading aloud impacts children much more and reading as a family is the key for them to find the magic key that opens the chest of knowledge and fun; finally, it is what she has done during her life as a researcher. Then, it was time to put her theory into practice and encourage children to read through 'We Love Reading'.

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The model for this reading animation program is simple. The non-profit organization created by Dr. Dajani trains adult volunteers to read aloud to children in their community in an engaging way. Reading for yourself and alone is different from reading for many people who vibrate with the story of a reading around an entertainer who makes the moment fun and unforgettable.

Encouraging reading in Jordan

Encouraging reading in Jordan. Photo: 'We Love Reading'

Adults who want to be part of the program choose books in the children's native language and read aloud to them regularly in a public space. With this simple but powerful idea, 'We Love Reading' has now spread to 55 countries around the world, according to its creator.

When the process started, Dr. Rana felt it was important to measure the impact of reading animation, so she also invited other researchers to study what 'We Love Reading' generated among children.

"This simple model has proven to be highly impactful. The children began to enjoy reading and asking their parents to read to them; thus becoming change makers in their own homes,” explains Dr. Dajani. "Additionally, the researchers found improvements in the children's cognitive abilities, empathy levels, a strength in their emotional intelligence, and increased prosocial behaviors, such as caring for the environment."

The volunteers who began to be part of the reading animation process became empowered, respected people and social entrepreneurs capable of finding solutions to the problems around them. Likewise, the community as a whole got closer and began to invest in similar projects generating a significant impact thanks to the construction of a social fabric that motivated the 'We love Reading' model.

According to Dr. Dajani, there are three keys to making reading animation a different and pleasant moment, as she stated in an interview given to Harvard University: "Start alone and read more so that you can become a role model for those around”, explains the scientist. “Read to children in your workplace, community, or family for about 15 minutes a day and identify challenges in your own community, find the root of why children don't read, and then find a solution, no matter how small, put it into practice and move forward."

This is preceded by something much more important for the Jordanian scientist, "many children do not read all over the world because their parents do not read aloud to them, so through 'We Love Reading' we hope to educate a generation of creators of change." Reading to change the world, that is the key.

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