Worldreader Kids partners with Jordanian schools to get families reading
December 14, 2017 By Wendy Smith
3rd grade student Lamees shares a phone with her friend Nour while trying out the Worldreader Kids app
Walk into the right classroom at Um Huthaifa School and ask one of the 3rd graders to show you her “reading card” and she will invariably pull out a large piece of folded, colorful cardboard with lists of stories on it. These lists of stories are the ones the students read every week of the final months of their last school year as part of a Ministry of Education reading program. Next to each list is a colorful drawing of an animal or a house or sometimes a more elaborate scene from her favorite story that she drew to illustrate it and show her teacher how well she understood it. Every line is usually carefully filled out with a story name, showing that she has all of the stories available to her from the limited supply of books available through the program.
A reading card at Um Huthaifa School
Lamees Obaidat is one of these students. She says she reads to improve her language skills and to be able to communicate better with others, but she also just loves reading with her family—especially her older sister, who she says is a great storyteller. When asked what she thinks about being one of the first classes to get access to Worldreader’s new collection of Arabic children’s books in a few months, she at first says she’s interested because it will allow her to read more, but then continues that she’s also excited about the idea of being able to compete with her sister.
As part of our new early reading project in Jordan, Worldreader is partnering with the Queen Rania Foundation to launch a digital reading campaign aimed at improving access to books and increasing parental engagement in learning in eight schools across Eastern Amman. In these schools, teachers will promote the story of the week to parents via Worldreader Kids mobile application and its digital library of high-quality, Arabic children’s books. The program hopes to foster a love of reading that starts in the home. Preliminary research carried out for the project has shown that parents are particularly willing to engage in a supportive reading and learning activity with their children if this activity is assigned by the school.
Scheduled to begin in 2018, this program will be an opportunity for parents, teachers and students to work together to promote more reading and language development. The Worldreader Kids app, which will bring hundreds of Arabic children’s books to families through their mobile phones, will allow parents to not only provide educational support to their children but also much needed emotional support. Books such as The Lake Where Frogs Lived and The Cat’s Family by Helen Patuck can help to communicate across difference and help process fears for conflict impacted Syrian and Jordanian children.
As part of this outreach effort, Worldreader has conducted research to understand why parents do or do not read and to design a supportive behavior change campaign that reduces those barriers around reading and communicates to parents the value of reading. Our research is looking at household level behaviors and attitudes around reading aloud to children so as to meaningfully address obstacles that impede reading in these communities as well as at informal education centers in and out of refugee camps.
The Worldreader Kids project in Jordan will allow us to reach thousands of children impacted by the Syrian refugee crisis. To deal with the aftermath of the world’s worst refugee crisis since WWII, these children will need to be equipped with the right skillset to re-imagine the future, to reflect critically on events and contribute to durable peaceful solutions. This is why we read and encourage girls like Lamees to read all she can get her hands on – whether at school, at home or right on her Mom’s phone. We believe war should not remove words from their pages or books from a generation of future scientists, artists, teachers or peacemakers.