Global nonprofit giving kids’ books to Afghan families and children in Tulsa

TULSA, Okla. — A global education nonprofit will distribute a special collection of children’s books to Afghan immigrant and refugee families and children in Tulsa.

Room to Read, an organization dedicated to literacy and gender equality, announced it’s giving more than 51 thousand children’s books to the families and children who have resettled in Tulsa and other locations across the U.S.

The Afghan Children’s Book Collection is for children ages 4 to 8 years old, and explores themes related to refugee resettlement. The books are written by authors and illustrators from Jordan, Palestine, Syria and the U.S. and aim to help children process their experience of adjusting to a new home and culture.

The collection includes 12 books published in both Dari and Pashto, the two majority languages spoken by Afghan resettlement communities in the U.S.

Associate Director of U.S. Programs for Room To Read Shannon Hesel said this is the first time this book collection will be distributed in the U.S.

“It’s critical to be able to see their culture, people that are like them, represented in the stories that they’re reading,” said Hesel. “To be able to connect with the home that they left behind ... adjusting to a new home culture as they settle into their new surroundings.”

A research study, commissioned by Room to Read, found forty percent of Afghan refugees arriving to the U.S. are children. Only two percent of children under 5 years old had more than three children’s books in Afghanistan. Room to Read said the literacy rate for the immigrant and refugee Afghan population is 37.5 percent.

Hundreds of Afghan refugees made their way to eastern Oklahoma in 2021 and the beginning of 2022, after the Taliban gained control of Afghanistan.

“The resettlement agencies and the organization and ecosystem that exists in Tulsa and some other pockets in Oklahoma were well positioned to be able to take these new families, and help them resettle and help them adapt and develop a new home,” said Hesel.

Room To Read is partnering with Episcopal Migration Ministries, First Book and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to distribute the books through at-home, afterschool and summer programs, and to educators who work in communities with students resettled from Afghanistan.

Besides Tulsa, the books are also being distributed to immigrant and refugee Afghan families and children in Oklahoma City, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Sacramento and San Diego, among other cities.