I am deeply honored to receive the Literacy and Special Recognition Award from the New England Reading Association. Thank you NERA! I selected the cross-cultural literacy organization, I’m Your Neighbor, to receive NERA’s donation in honor of this award.
At our 2016 conference NERA recognized Terry Farish for her inspiring work as an author and her continued dedication to promoting literacy for special populations of immigrants coming to our country in hopes of finding promise and possibility in their new home. Terry Farish has a passion for writing about immigrants and refugees who are our new neighbors in the U.S. Terry has been writing novels and nonfiction about refugees and immigrants for many years, informed by her early work for the Red Cross in Vietnam.
The Good Braider is her free verse novel about 17-year old Viola and her family’s journey from Sudan to Portland, Maine. The novel was selected as a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association and School Library Journal. Terry also authored Either the Beginning or the End of the World, the story of a Cambodian-American girl who journeys into her family’s heritage when she falls in love with a soldier. She has written several picture books. NERA feels Terry’s work is an inspiring example of literacy’s power, promise, and possibility.
Tonight I told a story for a CLiF literacy event at the International Institute in Manchester, NH. The International Institute helps refugees to resettle and Amadou Hamady and his staff wrote a grant to support English language literacy. They won the grant and CLiF funded many things including my visit, a library collection, and additional books in every genre so that every child could have two new books to keep forever. Through translations in Arabic, Nepali, and French, I told the parents what literacy experts say – You are the center of your child’s world. If you share books together, the child will love them and thrive in school. Look at the pictures and imagine the story in your language.
I showed them illustrations from a book I wrote that will be published in the spring by Annick Press. Illustrator Ken Daley created luminous art for the book. It’s called JOSEPH’S BIG RIDE. Joseph lived in Kakuma refugee camp where all he wants is one thing: to ride a bicycle. When he comes as a refugee to America, he still wants that one thing – if he could just ride a bike. Joseph is 7, like a lot of the kids I see tonight.
Amadou said to me, These parents love their children but sometimes they are working at night and trying to solve their own problems in a new country and sometimes they don’t sit down with their children. This program is so good because the parents can be with their children and books. On my way out I passed a very large painting. A teacher told me “many hands created it.” It was a landscape and beneath it were lines of a poem beginning with “I’m from….” that each child had created. Here are some of the lines:
I’m from old, romantic, Hindi songs.
I’m from Beldangi, near river and forest, close to the desert.