Bringing the Joy of Reading to Children Worldwide

We Love Reading—an Amplify Challenge Top Idea—reimagines the library to help refugees find their voice

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The Challenge
The Outcome

If you haven’t heard Rana Dajani talk about We Love Reading, you should. A simple phone call with her feels like a Ted Talk you wish you could share with the world. So it’s no surprise that she originally found out about OpenIDEO because an admirer of her work had posted about We Love Reading as inspiration in a Challenge.

We Love Reading seeks to help communities find joy in reading—especially reading aloud. Founded by Rana in 2006, their approach is to redefine the library as more than just a collection of books. In a We Love Reading library, the central feature is the community coming together to fall in love with reading. 

To set up a library, We Love Reading helps to amass a small collection of books and then trains community members—known as ambassadors—to lead the library by reading aloud to children. These ambassadors gain valuable skills, an opportunity to become leaders in their community, and a chance to positively influence the youth in their lives. Thanks to We Love Reading, children are given a place where they can sit and enjoy a book in peace.

After successful initiatives in Amman, Jordan, We Love Reading witnessed a growing need for educational services targeted at the Syrian refugee community. They submitted their idea to expand their reading circles into the Zaatri Refugee Camp as part of the Amplify Refugee Education Challenge, in partnership with IDEO.org. We Love Reading went on to be selected as a Top Idea, which included funding and implementation support to help them scale their efforts and become more sustainable. Join us as we delve deeper into Rana’s experience with We Love Reading and becoming a Challenge-winning Top Idea on OpenIDEO.

Q: Where were you in 2016 when you joined the OpenIDEO Challenge?

Rana: We had three main questions we were looking to answer:

  • How do we produce revenue as a business model so we can be sustainable without grants?
  • How do we maintain quality of delivery and of ambassadors we’re training as we scale the program?
  • How do we make sure that We Love Reading libraries are sustainable by incentivizing the ambassadors?

Q: Have you answered those questions?

Rana: Our submission to OpenIDEO was centered around wanting help producing a kit that we would use to promote our work, and scale and replicate We Love Reading. We now have an online portal to deliver We Love Reading to people all over the world. We also have another version to deploy to NGOs and, through a “train the trainer” model, deliver to new communities already working with those NGOs. And we have a revenue stream from those NGOs using our kit. There’s the answer to question one.

We also were able to refine a mobile application for our ambassadors to create a virtual community all over the world. We now have an easy way to connect with our members and a way for them to connect with and learn from each other. This has helped a great deal in answering our second question.

We haven’t completely answered the third question, but we now have the tools to start addressing it and any other issues that come up. After this Challenge, I made sure my entire staff—from our finance person to the person who cleans our office, and everyone in between—attended a training on human-centered design so we could all adopt this mindset. It’s about having a good toolkit that you go back to every time. Human-centered design is still here as my lifeline even though the Challenge has ended.

Q: How was your experience as an OpenIDEO participant, and, ultimately, Top Idea team?

Rana: This Challenge was the best thing that could happen to We Love Reading. I loved that total ownership was kept with the person who generated the idea. This approach says to the innovator, “We respect you—it’s your idea—just tell us how we can help you.” I needed access to a team of experts who could help me answer my questions and that was what I received. No one has ever done that for me.

Equally important was the fact that the process was set up so we could survive and thrive, even after the support ended. It was different from other grants I’d applied for. The Challenge team knew me and my program. I wasn’t just a number or extra paperwork.

Q: Can you give us an example of a person whose life has been influenced by We Love Reading?

Rana: Asma is 24 years old and lives in Zaatri Camp in Jordan. She has been reading aloud with us since 2014, when she was first trained. Since then, she’s become a whole new person. She was offered a job at a school even though she never went herself. She became a writer in the camp where she lives, has started creating plays with the children around her, and her kids, her husband, and her whole family are deeply involved in the We Love Reading community. She’s a true testament that you change people by empowering them to take control of their own lives.

We Love Reading proves that every person can make a difference. Each person is a changemaker.

Learn More

Want to find more great ideas? Check out our Challenges page to discover inspiring solutions from around the world.