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.
I’m from a beautiful place, I am from Iraq.