New Book Collection Helps Afghan Children Live Their New Lives in Houston

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A new initiative aims to help the thousands of Afghan children in Houston navigate the challenges of adjusting to their new homes through a collection of culturally relevant books about the refugee experience.

Newly arrived Afghan children in Houston will receive a special shipment of more than 3,000 children’s books that highlight the resettlement process, particularly the process of adjusting to a new country.

Global education nonprofit Room to Read announced the initiative on Monday, World Refugee Day. The organization will publish and distribute a total of 51,600 books in cities across the country.

Houston was selected as a participating city in the program because of its large population of evacuated Afghans, many of whom are children.

Texas has resettled more than 11,000 Afghans evacuated by the United States after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. About half of those Afghans were resettled in the Houston area, according to agency data.

Twelve different stories are part of this collection, which has been specially adapted for a young Afghan audience, according to Shannon Hesel, associate director of the American program of Room to Read.

“They cover all the themes of resettlement and finding a new home, meeting and integrating into a new culture, navigating different social situations, connecting with other people who have maybe had a similar experience,” Hesel said.

The stories were originally written for other refugee groups, such as Syrian refugees living in Jordan, but have been adapted, translated and edited by Afghan authors. They will be printed in the two most common Afghan languages, Dari and Pashto.

“In some cases there were some minor adaptations to the actual work,” Hesel said.

The books in Houston will be distributed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops through the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, which has resettled more than 1,300 Afghans to Houston.

Refugee families typically encounter a number of logistical and psychological obstacles when resettling in a new country, including loss of culture and family. Some may also struggle with post-traumatic stress related to their experiences in Afghanistan.

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