Who we are?“Read with me” is a project designed and implemented by the Institute for Research on the History of Children’s Literature (IRHCL), to promote reading for/with disadvantaged children who are generally at risk. “The Institute for Research on the History of Children’s Literature” (IRHCL) (koodaki.org/en) is a non-governmental / non-profit organization founded in 2000 to conduct research on the history of children’s literature. A major achievement of the Institute is the publication of 10 volumes of the history of children’s literature in Iran. IRHCL is funded by donations, publications and implementation of cultural projects. Reaching out to disadvantaged children has been a major concern of the Institute, in particular, those who are deprived of cultural activities, especially books and reading.
In 2010, the Institute developed a new project called "Read with Me".
What is RWM?Read with Me is a project which its main objective is to make quality books accessible to children who normally don’t have access to books, like street/working children, young adults or those living in remote and deprived areas of Iran. The project focuses on reading aloud aiming to create a joyful experience for children, while it intends to empower teachers, librarians and volunteers in remote areas, through training workshops, regular mentoring. The project is funded by donations and run by volunteers.
The project has three main features:
- It is expandable: The project has realistic and simple principles that are designed within a user-friendly model. Therefore it is easily adapted and implemented by local organizations or individuals.
- It is flexible: The structure is designed in a flexible way so that it can be adjusted to different social and cultural, urban and rural environments, as well as different setting such as preschools, educational centers, hospitals, factories, orphanages, etc.
- It is sustainable: All measures are taken to make the project durable. During a one-year period, the progress is regularly monitored in terms of training of teachers/volunteers, provision of books and more importantly observation and recording of children’s social and intellectual development. Setting up the small school or shelf libraries along with regular follow ups with the communities are expected to ensure sustainability and establish the habit of book loving and reading.
- Make quality books accessible to children & young adults in deprived communities;
- Promote the culture of books and libraries and develop life-long reading habits in deprived areas, at home, school and in the community;
- Enhance the life of disadvantaged children through reading books and literature;
- Keep street and working children and young adults away from violence and crime;
- Convince the teachers and librarians to devote more time and effort to reading promotion;
- Empower teachers, librarians and volunteers to ensure sustainability of the project;
- Set up and maintain dynamic libraries in preschools, schools or communities in deprived areas;
- Expand the project to as many as possible rural and urban disadvantaged communities in Iran as possible.
The Course of Action
There is a “Read with Me” team of experts consisting of 20 experienced staff and volunteers at the Institute. The team carries out the following steps in all locations:
- After visiting a center and consulting with the teachers/ librarians, The team prepares a suitable program based on the number of children, the needs and the overall situation of their center.
- A list of quality books is prepared according to the number of children and their weekly reading sessions.
- The team selects and buys suitable books and places them in canvas bags ready for dispatch to locations.
- Canvas bags contain 12 books for a period of 3 months, including various subjects based on the needs and interests of different age groups.
- There are special handbooks for each book in the bag to guide the teachers on how to read the books and carry out the activities.
- There are activity sheets for every child in each canvas bag.
- In every package, there are handbooks in paper or CD forms for the teachers and/or interested families to guide them. The handbooks provide suggestions on methods and how to make reading an ongoing and everyday habit for children and young adults.
- Teachers read the books aloud to help the children associate reading with building a vocabulary, acquire a reading model, and become familiar with different types of literature and new concepts.
- Reading aloud sessions are held at least once a week. The team suggests reading one title per week. The children are given 12 titles every 3 months and every 5 children in a group can have one copy of these titles.
- Teachers encourage discussion and exchange of views about the story, aiming to develop critical thinking.
- Teachers emphasize on reading jointly with creative activities, such as theater, illustrating, etc.
- Every 3 months new books are selected, prepared and sent to the locations along with the handbooks and the activity sheets.
- Two-day training workshops are organized/conducted by the team every 3 months for teachers, librarians and volunteers. The content of the workshops generally consists of children’s literature, skills for reading aloud and artistic activities, improving literacy skills, living values through literature, setting up a library and classification of books and art related to books.
- Teachers/participants are required to submit feedback and statistics on monthly basis.
- To monitor and improve the implementation, all activities are documented for further evaluation of the project.
- The "Read with Me" team keeps close contact with centers, and provides regular monitoring, mentoring, guidance and support to the teachers or volunteers by monthly visits to the locations, by phone, fax, E-mail as available, as well as sending handbooks, reference materials, etc.
- The project is planned for one year and is monitored on a quarterly basis (However, in many locations the project has continued to the second and third year, based on the initiative of the volunteers and community and additional funds donations).
- The team evaluates the progress by collecting data through specially designed questionnaires, taking films and photographs and recording the reading sessions.
- The team prepares and submits a comprehensive annual report to the Institute.
- Setting up small libraries and keeping them alive and active has been a major goal and the key to the sustainability of the project.
The Read with Me team has monitored the Project, through specially designed questionnaires, aiming to assess the children's language, cognitive, personality and social developments. Since 2010 the overall assessment of the project reflects the following achievements:
- Children are made aware of the fascinating phenomena of books, reading, and the joy of reading in a group.
- The children, who were not interested to read books, have become book lovers.
- Children are now eager to borrow books, take them home or read to their siblings and parents.
- Children's concentration has improved; they have learned to listen to the story from the beginning to the end.
- They can comprehend and relate the story, remember the highlights and describe the sequence of events.
- They have learned many difficult words through reading , their vocabulary and pronunciation have improved.
- Book related drama has improved self-expression, confidence, critical thinking and most importantly, reasoning and finding creative ways of solving problems.
- The fine motor skills have developed, namely as a result of artistic activities where the children are engaged during reading sessions such as painting and book-making.
- The children's communication skills, with other children and the teacher, are improved considerably.
- By reading stories and discussing them, children have come to a better understanding of living values, friendship, peace and environment.
- The project has equally made an impact on teachers, librarians and volunteers. The training workshops have motivated the teachers to learn more and improve their knowledge of books and literature as an effective tool to work with disadvantaged children.
- Since 2010 when the project was launched, some 90 small libraries have been established as a vital part of the project. Each and every one of these small libraries is set up by the books that are sent to the locations every 3 months in a canvas bag, books that children read over and over again with their friends, siblings ,parents or by themselves to absorb the depth of the art and the literature. The fact that the libraries are alive and active long after the project was completed, in effect indicates that the project has had a positive impact, not only in promoting books and reading but making a visible change in the community.