Vermont library sources children’s books for Afghan arrivals

Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 5:38 PM EST
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BENNINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Over the past year, about 260 Afghan refugees have resettled in Vermont, with about 26 in the Bennington area. As they adjust to life in the Green Mountain State, some of the state’s libraries are working to make sure they have books to read.

The Bennington Free Library is one of the largest in the state of Vermont. The genres and titles available are expansive. And now they have books available in the Dari language as well.

Tucked in the corner of the children’s room, a shelf of books seeks to offer a small comfort to Afghans resettling in Vermont.

“In order to meet the needs of young children, I knew one of the ways was through books,” said Linda Donigan, the youth services librarian in Bennington. When immigrants from Afghanistan began moving about a year ago, she wanted to make sure families with young children had books available to them that they could understand. With grant money in hand -- and the help of a friend and a colleague -- they launched Stories Across Borders. “We made connections with the teachers and we also made some connections with tutors who were working with some of the adults.”

Stories Across Borders began with tote bags full of books and toys, distributed to families in the area. “But we wanted to create a core collection for the children’s room so that Afghan families would feel welcome when they came in to see their language represented,” Donigan said. She says some books in the 25-title collection were available from publishers in bilingual formats, but other kids’ classics that could help young learners with English weren’t. “Not only will you see them in classrooms and homes, but they also taught core concepts -- positional words, color words, days of the week.”

Donigan enlisted the help of an Afghan college student at Williams College in Massachusetts to help them translate. “Sent me the translations and we printed them up and taped them into the books,” she said.

Now, the books are available to check out and they are encouraging families to come to use them. The Bennington Free Library also is working to build up an adult section of books in Dari. They only have one book now but say they’re hoping to expand in the future.