612,000. That is approximately the number of refugees who have come to America in the past ten years, seeking a better life. From Iraq all the way to Cuba, thousands of people search for help in America, but many have a significant problem facing them when they arrive, they cannot speak English. On average almost 75% of refugees cannot speak English upon arrival in the U.S, and after 5 years of living here that number still remains above 50%. Without the ability to read or write, these refugees likely feel stranded in an unfamiliar country, with no way to catapult themselves to the better life they are seeking.
In my home city of Pittsburgh alone, immigrants from over 17 countries seek resettlement, most of whom do not have a working knowledge of English. Another obstacle to not being native English speakers is not knowing how to access resources to help them learn. Without the means to communicate, they risk being turned away from jobs and may have a limited ability to form relationships with their new neighbors and community. In addition, children who need to assimilate into local public schools face challenges of falling behind in curriculum and having difficulty socializing. To help address these hurdles in my community, I have partnered with two Pittsburgh organizations: Hello Neighbor and the South Hills Interfaith Movement. As the Bookworm Global Ambassador in Pittsburgh, we are working together to organize book drives to help refugees access educational resources and supplies.
Reading materials are one of the most significant ways to help the refugee community improve their English competencies. Early readers and picture books help ESL learners begin to build a basic vocabulary, associating English words with different things such as social greetings and words to be used in school and workplace settings. This will not only help adults communicate their needs more effectively, but also help refugee children connect with American children to make friends in their new communities. The long term impact of providing refugee communities with educational resources and supplies will not only help them have a better life, but will also strengthen the communities they are resettled in. June 20 was World Refugee Day and Bookworm Global had a book donation booth where we distributed over 1200 books. I am very grateful for my partnerships with SHIM and Hello Neighbor, which has enabled Bookworm Global to help boost literacy in underserved communities by donating almost 3000 books since March 2022.
As the Pittsburgh Ambassador, I will be building a team to help in these efforts and will continue to expand by creating a club at the Upper St. Clair High School in the Fall. The Pittsburgh Bookworm Global team will continue with our mission to collect books and redistribute them to underserved communities, in order to increase literacy across Pittsburgh.
Learn other ways to get involved at SHIM HERE.