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First Book and Room to Read Come Together to Distribute 30,000 Books in Dari and Pashto to Refugee and Immigrant Afghan Children

The Collaboration Taps into Strengths of Each Organization to Answer this Critical Need

September 8, 2022 (Washington D.C.) — First Book, the largest online network of educators serving children in need, and Room to Read, the global education organization creating a world free from illiteracy and gender inequality, today announced an innovative partnership to publish and distribute a total of 30,000 books — 12 unique titles in both Dari and Pashto, the two majority languages spoken by the Afghan population. The books will be made available to refugee and immigrant communities through First Book’s Network of educators serving children in need. This partnership leverages the industry-leading skills of both organizations – bridging First Book’s growing distribution Network of more than 550,000 educators with Room to Read’s 22-year experience as a noncommercial global publisher of diverse children’s books – to get culturally relevant books to those who need them most.

Members of First Book’s Network will have access to the titles, which have been adapted from a collection of books created for Syrian refugees in Jordan. The books will be directed to Afghan refugee children resettling in the United States to help them process their experience of moving to a new country and adjust to a new home and culture. The partnership brings together First Book’s reach among low-income communities across all 50 U.S. states with Room to Read’s exceptional ability to publish home language books in low-cost formats to meet critical gaps for underserved communities, such as the immigrant and refugee population.

“Providing resources in languages spoken by refugee children is critical to eliminating some of the barriers to education that they face. In addition, it makes an enormous difference in creating a sense of normalcy as they adjust to their new lives here in the U.S.,” said Kyle Zimmer First Book president and CEO. “The innovative nature of this partnership helps both First Book and Room to Read expand our reach and impact, allowing even more children to thrive with the resources they need to learn.”

This partnership specifically aims to support refugees and other immigrants who speak Dari or Pashto. While primarily created to help children process their experiences, these new books will offer engaging reading for young immigrants and help children maintain connections to their family’s culture. First Book and Room to Read recognize the importance for young children, especially English-language learners, to preserve their emotional and cultural connection to the past while building the reading skills to succeed in the future.

Books can serve as both windows and mirrors to understanding diverse identities. When children can see themselves in books, they develop a greater understanding and appreciation of their individuality, their community, and their culture. Children can also be encouraged to read more when they recognize characters from their own culture. For refugees, culturally diverse and inclusive books help them maintain, and share, a personal cultural connection despite the distance from their homes. Diverse representation in books can also be a window for other readers to understand the cultural practices and values of other communities.

 “In the past year, thousands of Afghan children and families have faced displacement and immigrated to the United States to build a new life,” said Shannon Hesel, Room to Read U.S. Program Associate Director. “At Room to Read, we know that books have the power to build resilience and help young readers better understand the world around them. We are committed to using our expertise in children’s literacy development and book publishing to partner with First Book and provide these young learners with access to books that reflect their experiences.”  

To learn more about the partnership between First Book and Room to Read, go to firstbook.org or check out the new titles available on the First Book Marketplace here.

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About First Book:

Founded in Washington, D.C., in 1992 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit social enterprise, First Book is a leader in the educational equity field. Over its 30-year history, First Book has distributed more than 225 million books and educational resources, with a retail value of more than $2 billion. First Book believes education offers children in need the best path out of poverty. First Book breaks down barriers to quality education by providing its Network of more than 550,000 registered teachers, librarians, after school program leaders, and others serving children in need with millions of free and affordable new, high-quality books, educational resources, and basic needs items through the award-winning First Book Marketplace nonprofit eCommerce site. The First Book Network comprises the largest and fastest-growing community of formal and informal educators serving children in need.

First Book also expands the breadth and depth of the education field through a family of social enterprises, including First Book Research & Insights, its proprietary research initiative, and the First Book Accelerator, which brings best-in-class research-based strategies to the classroom via relevant, usable educator resources. First Book Impact Funds target support to areas of need, such as rural communities or increasing diversity in children’s books. For more information about First Book, please visit www.firstbook.org.

About Room to Read:

Founded in 2000 on the belief that World Change Starts with Educated Children®, Room to Read is creating a world free from illiteracy and gender inequality. We are achieving this goal by helping children in historically low-income communities develop literacy skills and a habit of reading, and by supporting girls as they build skills to succeed in secondary school and negotiate key life decisions. Room to Read collaborates with local communities, partner organizations and governments to test and implement innovative models that can be integrated into the education system to deliver positive outcomes for children at scale. To date, Room to Read has benefited more than 32 million children and has worked in 21 countries and in more than 49,000 communities, providing support through remote solutions that facilitate learning beyond the classroom. Room to Read aims to benefit 40 million children by 2025. Learn more at www.roomtoread.org.

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