Monday, July 19, 2010

Outreach for Refugees

Every Wednesday, Amy Kukla reads aloud to refugee children while Refugee Support Services of the Carolinas connects their parents to information about Medicaid, food stamps, schools, and other resources to help them become self-sufficient and empower them to thrive in the United States. But Amy has done more than just keep the kids busy. She has worked to teach skills to prepare them for school here in America, and has seen some remarkable transformations already.

The children were not always as engaged in the storytimes as they are now. According to Rachel Humphries of Refugee Support Services, when Amy first started working with them, the kids were too afraid to participate at all. They wouldn't go near or even look at her. In her first session, Amy sat down and sang sing-along songs by herself.

But gradually, both the children and their parents began to warm up to her as she began to gain their trust. At last week's storytime, little ones climbed in her lap as she read aloud. More than just a fun distraction, Amy's sessions teach the children concepts they'll need to know when they enter school, such as the names of colors, how to handle a book, and how to behave and participate in a storytime. Parents learn about the important role they can play in their children's education, and of the tools and resources the library offers to help them achieve success.

Of course, the kids also get to pick up some fun cultural knowledge along the way, including learning English words for the sounds animals make, classic nursery rhymes, and even how to do the hokey-pokey!

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