Rhode Island’s Refugee Dream Center, a post resettlement refugee agency, was one of two organizations chosen from over 300 nominations as recipients of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Books For Readers book drive. SCBWI is a professional organization of writers and illustrators of children’s books. The SCBWI Books for Readers book drive is the organization’s first literacy initiative.
At a celebration of the award Monday night, Omar Bah, cofounder and executive director of the Refugee Dream Center said that community member Mary Copp wrote the application that led to the organization’s selection. “She said to us, ‘I believe in you guys and I’m going to nominate you guys for a book competition,'” said Bah. “She believed that we should be considered and it happened.”
“She wrote the most beautiful and compassionate description,” said Lin Oliver, executive director of SCBWI.
The Refugee Dream Center will use the books to outfit a classroom library for its ESL program and promote the center’s goal to help refugees work towards self-sufficiency and integration. Also, every child the Refugee Dream Center serves will get a book to take home.
“Unlike most book-to-reader relationships, these books will be the first books that our children will read in their new language, that will assist them with their English mastery, and that will help them become part of their new culture—and feel part of it, too!” said Kara Skaling, Program Coordinator of the Refugee Dream Center.
“America is not what we see in the news and in the political discussions,” said Bah. “This is what America is: A welcoming country.”
As part of the celebration poets Knight Jean and Mohammed Al Shawafa performed some pieces.
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