Reach Out To Asia (ROTA) and Bloomsbury Qatar celebrated International Reading Day by supplying books and supporting classroom activities for children living in the Nahr El Bared Palestinian Camp in Lebanon.
Thanks to a donation from Qatar Foundation subsidiary Bloomsbury Qatar, ROTA supplied the American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), its partner in Lebanon, with 104 copies of the book Azizi Max (Dear Max) for the 23rd April event. Azizi Max tells the story of a nine-year-old boy (Max), an only child who lives with his widowed mother and writes to his favorite author, D.J. Lucas. The two correspond by short, humorous letters and postcards, sharing personal experiences.
Twenty boys and girls, aged between 9 and 15 years, participated in the activities and wrote their own ‘Dear Max’ letters. Some children wrote to their parents, others to their teachers, and two used their imagination to address the Secretary General of the United Nations. Six students then read their letters in front of the whole group.
“When asked what they learned, the children mentioned learning to structure a letter and communicating their feelings and thoughts in writing, something that is difficult to do verbally to people they like and respect,” said Rania Abou Mosleh ROTA International Programs Specialist.
ROTA, ANERA and NISCVT plan to build on the success of the inaugural Azizi Max reading activity by engaging the same group of children in dealing with responses to their letters and developing short illustrated stories. In addition, ANERA is encouraging its other partners in the ROTA-funded project to organize similar Azizi Max activities within their non-formal education activities.
“Writing letters, getting responses, conversing with imaginary or real characters not only encourages children to develop their creativity, improve their reading and writing skills, but also it is very therapeutic, especially for children living in a marginalized and challenging environment,” added Ms Rania.
International Reading Day focuses attention on worldwide literacy needs. Despite many excellent and varied efforts, literacy remains an elusive target: 780 million adults so not know how to read or write, and between 94 and 115 million children lack access to education.
Since 2010, ROTA and ANERA have been collaborating to support the National Institute for Social Services and Vocational Training (NISCVT) and other grassroots organizations to enhance vocational training and non-formal education for Lebanese and Palestinian youth living in marginalized communities in Lebanon.
By the end of the project, 120 youth will have acquired new skills to increase their employment opportunities. In addition, 40 instructors – kindergarten teachers, vocational training teachers, and others conducting non-formal education classes in community based organizations in Nahr El-Bared – are applying appropriate non-formal education methods.
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