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Room to Read Accelerator Explores Visual Storytelling in Jordan

August 02, 2017

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In July, Room to Read Accelerator continued its progress in Jordan with an Illustrator Workshop–the second phase of a four-part project sponsored by Dubai Cares. The five-day experience hosted twenty local illustrators and three publishers. Together they learned new ways to visually tell the story of the twenty titles soon to be created for primary students and Syrian refugees living in Jordan. Come this November, Room to Read and Dubai Cares will finish the project by distributing 500,000 Arabic children’s books to schools throughout Jordan. Interested to know how the workshop went? Hear it straight from one of the workshop facilitators, Julie Downing!

Rethinking Traditional Storytelling

“The biggest gains I saw [from the workshop] were conceptual. For many of the illustrators, the idea of letting the pictures tell half of the story was a new concept. Traditionally, authors tell the artists what to draw.  In the end, they create books with pictures, not picture books. In this workshop, the illustrators were introduced to the idea of thinking of the book as a whole and not just as individual spreads, so many were able to think about and design the book differently. The illustrators got their first taste of artistic freedom and were able to think creatively about their own vision for the book. The results were some wonderfully creative solutions .” 

Anything is Possible with Passion and Persistence


"In a short amount of time I really didn't believe we would get the results that we did. The chosen illustrators were passionate and worked hard. The publishers seemed very committed to the final product and were excited by the possibilities. As a result, most of the artists accomplished what we hoped they would in just five days."

The Power of Community

"Even in five days, you can build a sense of community. I felt this was one of the successes of the project overall. By the end of the workshop, the group felt like a community — a feeling that often takes 15 weeks of a normal semester to accomplish if it ever happens. However, the publishers became friends, the artists became friends and I definitely felt like I was watching the beginning of something special." 

The Start of Systematic Change

“It was exciting to be on, what felt like, a tipping point for children's books and publishing in Jordan. Jordan's publishing tradition is very different from the United States. Many authors also act as their own publishers, finding their own illustrators and then directing them with their art. Room to Read brought a new way of thinking about picture books to Jordan and the publishers expressed an interest in continuing these workshops in order to establish a new way of creating books.”

The Beginning of Lasting Connections

"This experience was one of the most interesting experiences I have ever had.  And in the end, what affected me the most were the people I met. The publishers opened their hearts and their homes, the illustrators gave it their all and I came away feeling that we had made a difference, not only to the millions of Jordanian children who will get to read these books, but we also made a difference to the writers, illustrators,  publishers and designers. And they, in turn, gave me an even bigger appreciation as to how the power of words and art can change lives."

More About Accelerator

Room to Read Accelerator shares our organization's 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.


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