Room to Read, a global organization founded on the belief that World Change Starts with Educated Children®, will announce the publication and distribution of 600,000 copies of new Arabic children’s books, at an event held on November 14 at the Children’s Museum Jordan. Under the Patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and funded by Dubai Cares as part of UAE’s Reading Nation Campaign, this project brings Room to Read’s award-winning expertise in local language children’s book publishing to the Middle East for the first time. Twenty original children’s book titles were developed by Room to Read in partnership with over 40 local authors and illustrators and in collaboration with three Jordanian publishers—Dar Al Yasmine Publishing, Jabal Amman Publishers and Majdalawi Masterpieces. This one-year project serves the children of Jordan, 90,000 of whom are estimated to be out of school. Thirty thousand copies of each book title will be distributed to inspire a love and habit of reading among the children of Jordan. Every public primary school in Jordan will receive four copies of each book title with the remaining copies distributed to refugee camps and disenfranchised communities throughout the country.
Room to Read began developing original children’s literature over a decade ago in response to the lack of age-appropriate, culturally relevant, quality reading materials for early-grade readers in the low-income communities where they work. To date, the organization has published over 1300 titles in 25 languages and has, in turn, helped children develop a habit and love of reading, provided professional development for local authors and illustrators, and fueled local publishing industries in countries across Asia and Africa. Room to Read does field-testing of its titles and analyzes book checkout in their libraries to determine which genres, characters, and plot elements resonate most with children in the communities they serve.
“Several years ago, Room to Read identified a time-sensitive need for our data-proven programs in literacy and girls’ education in communities around the world and we responded by launching a technical assistance arm, Room to Read Accelerator,” said Dr. Cory Heyman, Room to Reading’s Chief Innovation Officer. “Our children’s book publishing project in Jordan is a prime example of how, by providing training and support to local publishers, authors and illustrators, we are reaching more children at a faster rate and scaling our impact beyond the boundaries of where Room to Read currently operates our direct implementation programs.”
The stories developed and published as part of this project cover topic that not only captures children’s imaginations but also reflects and legitimize the unique experiences of children in Jordan and gives children inspiration to deal with these experiences by reading about the plights and adventures of the storybook characters. Earlier this year, the authors of the book titles met with Syrian refugee university students to understand their experiences so they could be translated into the stories being developed. One book title addresses the concept of home in a time of transience.
The book distribution in Jordan is part of the Reading Nation Campaign, which is an initiative launched in 2016 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The initiative aims to distribute five million books to children in refugee camps and to schools in need around the world. Dubai Cares has been selected by Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI) to be one of the main partners to manage and implement the Campaign.