Ms. Hakimi is taking English courses as she works towards her goal of becoming a lawyer one day. However, the most important thing for her now is to make sure that her children are well settled. “I want my children to continue their education and achieve their goals,” she said.
Inspiring children is a focus of First Book, another Neediest Cases Fund beneficiary. In response to the influx of Afghan children coming to the United States last year, First Book partnered with publisher Room to Read to print and distribute 30,000 children’s books on themes related to refugee resettlement, written in Dari and Pashto.
“Stories are powerful,” said Shannon Hesel, deputy director of the American program Room to Read. “If kids don’t see themselves reflected in the stories they have access to, their interests won’t be sparked.”
First Book, which aims to provide culturally relevant reading material to children in need, says its partnerships help children better understand what’s going on around them, and the books give them the words to process their experiences.
“Books are a comfort to kids,” said Candace Radoski, First Book’s vice president for network partnerships. “It helps them have a safe and comfortable place that somehow mitigates some of the trauma they’re experiencing.”
Julie McDonald, a library media specialist at Wiley Post Elementary in Oklahoma City, saw the benefits firsthand. She took the opportunity to order books from Room to Read’s Afghan collection after the number of Afghan children at her school increased.
When Ms. McDonald handed out the books at the end of the school day, the children didn’t want to put them in their bags and go home, she said. On the contrary, they immediately started flipping through the pages. “I think the familiarity was something that brought them joy and happiness,” she said.