June 20, 2017
In his most recent interview with Charlie Rose, Room to Read founder, John Wood, discussed our Accelerator Program and its plan to bring half of a million early grade books to primary students and Syrian refugees in Jordan. With more than 660,000 Syrian refugees registered by UNHCR in Jordan, the one-year project is a worthy cause and marks Room to Read’s first Accelerator Program in the Middle East.
The literacy-focused project is sponsored by Dubai Cares, an UAE-based global philanthropic organization and long-time partner of Room to Read. Within less than 12 months, the project will produce 20 different children’s book titles with 25,000 copies of each and distribute 500,000 Arabic children’s books throughout Jordan by November of 2017.
Jordan has seen a massive influx of Syrian refugees over the last five years, causing the population of Jordanian primary students to double. As a result, the local educational system has experienced a significant strain. To accommodate for the surge in students, many communities teach in two shifts with Jordanian students in the morning and refugee students in the afternoon.
By training and collaborating with Jordanian authors and illustrators, the Accelerator program will bring Room to Read’s local language publishing program to Jordan with the hope that training efforts will encourage local partners to continue progressing well after November.
“Children need books that reflect and legitimize their experiences, as well as give them possibilities for how to deal with such experiences by seeing how a character handles them,” says Alisha Berger, Associate Director of Room to Read’s Literacy Program. “These titles will offer this opportunity, specifically to refugees who are searching for home in a time of transience.”
In May, Room to Read, as part of this project, hosted 24 writers at a four-day writers’ workshop, where each participant drafted two stories including some with themes of hope and carrying home wherever you go. Relatable subjects aim to thread positive storylines into the lives of young refugees who aren’t sure if and when they’ll ever return home.
To inspire stories that resonate with local refugees, the Accelerator team welcomed four Syrian refugee university students to speak about their experiences. Zohour, one of the students, told the group:
“I really want you to join this workshop not just to discuss the struggles we go through as refugees, but because we want to show our strengths, the things we were able to turn into positive energy, how we were able to overcome our obstacles and that we can have a normal life just like everyone else.”
From the workshop came a range of heart-warming stories. One featured a boy living in a refugee camp who refuses to go outside of his tent due to a broken leg. However, a bird spurs his curiosity and eventually leads him out of his tent to reintegrate with other Syrian children in the camp. Other stories offered similar themes of positivity amidst transition.
The writer’s workshop marked the first of four stages. Next up in July, Jordanian illustrators and publishers will attend a Room to Read-led illustrators workshop, followed by editing and proofing in early Fall before the culminating distribution. While this is just the first stage of the promising project, attendees were brimming with excitement.
“This is the best experience I have ever had as someone who works in children’s books,” says Hala Hijjawi of Dar Al Yasmine Publishing. “Publishing houses and authors will now be able to produce better high quality books, which is very important because we’re still a developing country and in order for us to be a better, more developed country we need children, who are our future, to be more educated in every way. Books are the best way to educate them.”
Room to Read Accelerator shares our expertise and resources with partner organizations through the training materials, workshops, periodic support and monitoring, and technical assistance. All of this is done to maximize the quality of implementation and, in turn, replicate our work in eradicating illiteracy through high quality instruction and learning materials.
These projects typically run two to five years in length. Since its inception in January of 2015, Room to Read Accelerator has trained 14,000 people through partnerships in Indonesia and Grenada, as well as Tanzania, India and Nepal, where we also offer direct program implementation.
For more information about our Accelerator programs visit https://www.roomtoread.org/room-to-read-accelerator/.