Civic clubs team up to buy bilingual books for Afghan students | News

“It takes a village” is a common saying, but common sayings are common for a reason. When Stillwater was selected to provide housing for Afghan people in the US refugee resettlement program, those in charge knew it would require the community’s support.

And they got it.

Since last November, Stillwater has come to count 80 Afghan people, most in family units and many with young children, as members of the community.

Now several civic organizations have teamed up to provide books for those children as they adapt to a new life in a new place, while learning in a new language.

About 18 Afghan students, ages 5-12, are part of an English Language Learning program at Stillwater Public Schools that serves people from many countries and emphasizes serving the needs of the whole family.

“We have kids from Afghanistan, China, Korea, Mexico, Guatemala, Iraq, all over the world,” said Lisa Crane, an ELL teacher with the district.

Frontier Rotary members felt inspired to help the effort by providing bilingual books written in Pashto – the children’s native language – and English.

Encouraging literacy is something Frontier Rotary has previously made a commitment. The club had a reading program at Will Rogers Elementary for several years before the COVID-19 pandemic shut it down.

What began simply as a Frontier Rotary effort grew when Stillwater Evening Rotary, Stillwater Noon Lions, Stillwater Morning Kiwanis and the First United Methodist Men’s Club all chipped in to help. Through their combined efforts, they were able to buy “I can’t tell you how many books right now, a ton of books, boxes, boxes of books,” Frontier Rotary member Tim Hardin said.

Tayyad Thazmiwa, a volunteer interpreter for the Afghan ELL program, says having access to their own language in addition to the English they’re learning means a lot to the children.

The ELL program uses a lot of pictures, songs, movements and hand gestures to teach the children English, Crane explained. Having Thazmiwa’s help in case of confusion or when one of the children is having a social issue is comforting for them.

Having the bilingual materials is another form of support.

“It’s very important because we get to have the children read books in their own native language, (it) helps to emphasize their own culture as well as assist them in understanding the story,” Thazmiwa said. “Having a point of comparison with their own language boosts comprehension. It also has a sense of home and just a sense of belongingness to the books and we really do appreciate it.”

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