UR Jepson School of Leadership Studies Scholar Honored by United Nations for Making Reading Accessible to Refugees

October 26, 2020

UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND — Rana Dajani, a visiting scholar in the University of Richmond’s Jepson School of Leadership Studies, is a winner of a global refugee award presented by the United Nation’s Refugee Agency for her work in making books and reading accessible to children in refugee camps. 

The Nansen Refugee Award is a humanitarian prize, given annually by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN’s Refugee Agency. It honors individuals, groups and organizations that go above and beyond the call of duty to protect refugees, displaced, and stateless people. 

Dajani was one of four selected as a regional winner for her We Love Reading project, an initiative that aims to make books and reading accessible to children in every community, including refugee camps.

Dajani founded We Love Reading in 2006 when she returned to her home in Jordan after spending time abroad, where she noticed that few children were reading for fun.

“I realized that the way for a child to fall in love with reading is by having a role model or a parent who’s reading aloud to them,” said Dajani. “We train individuals how to read aloud as an art because most of them have never been read aloud to, so they don’t know how to do it.”

We Love Reading is now active in 56 countries worldwide and has trained over 7,000 – mostly women – volunteer readers and has made reading accessible for nearly half a million children, including tens of thousands of young refugees in Jordan and beyond.

Dajani is the 2019-21 Zuzana Simoniova Cmelikova Visiting Scholar at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond. In addition to her passion for reading Dajani is a scientist who studies how trauma impacts our genetic makeup. A Jordan native, she was named by Arabian Business as one of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.”

Read UNHCR’s full story on Dajani here.