In 2006, when molecular biologist Rana Dajani returned to Jordan after completing her PhD in Iowa, she noticed something about the children she encountered.
Growing up with her family in that country — and now as a mother — reading was considered a cherished pastime. When she was a child, Dajani’s parents would read aloud to her and her seven younger siblings, who all went on to devour books.
But although almost all of Jordan’s population can read (an estimated 95 percent as of 2015) many children weren’t reading outside of academic and religious contexts. They didn’t read for fun.
Research in the U.S. and U.K. has associated reading with longer lifespan, increased empathy and well-being, and reading fiction in particular has connections to increased processing skills, like creativity.