Ms. Hakimi is taking English courses towards her goal of one day practicing law again. However, the most important thing for her right now is to make sure her children are settled. “I want my children to continue their education and achieve their goals,” she said.
Inspiring children is at the heart of First Book, another beneficiary of the Most Needy Case Fund. In response to the wave of Afghan children arriving in the United States last year, First Book worked with nonprofit publisher Room to Read to print and distribute 30,000 children’s books that explore related topics to refugee resettlement, written in Dari and Pashto.
“Stories are powerful,” said Shannon Hesel, deputy director of the US Room to Read program. “When children don’t see themselves reflected in the stories they’re exposed to, they don’t spark their interests.”
First Book, which aims to provide culturally appropriate reading material to children in need, says its partnerships help children better understand what is happening around them and books give them the words to process their experience.
“Books are a source of comfort for children,” said Candace Radoski, First Book’s vice president of networking partnerships. “It gives them a safe and comfortable place, which in a way minimizes some of the trauma they’re going through.”
Julie McDonald, library communications specialist at Wiley Post Elementary School in Oklahoma City, has seen the benefits first-hand. She took the opportunity to order books through First Book from Room to Read’s Afghanistan Collection after the number of Afghan children at her school increased.
When Ms. McDonald distributes books at the end of the school day, the kids don’t want to stuff them in their bags and go home, she said. Instead, they immediately began rummaging through the pages. “I think familiarity is what brings them joy and happiness,” she said.