Maine writer donates $15,000 to reading program that welcomes immigrants

The generosity of a Maine author will allow more schools and libraries in Maine and across the country to participate in a reading program that welcomes immigrants to their new communities.

Phillip Hoose, whose 13 books include National Book Award-winning Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, has donated $15,000 to I’m Your Neighbor Books, a Portland-based nonprofit that uses children’s books and stories to welcome immigrants to the United States. states. The organization’s “welcoming libraries” are traveling collections of books that celebrate the diverse stories of modern immigrants and new Americans.

“As citizens of the world living in the largest refugee crisis in history, how do we humanize 82.4 million forcibly displaced people? said Kirsten Cappy, executive director of I’m Your Neighbor Books. “How can we ensure that newcomers like Afghans and their subsequent generations really feel like they belong in this country? We tell stories.

Cappy said the $15,000 donation will help cover shipping costs from host libraries to schools and libraries across the country, which in turn will share the books with community groups interested in welcoming immigrants. The project currently lends collections of children’s books and discussion materials across 36 school districts and libraries in the United States and Canada.

“A good story transforms our sense of ourselves and others,” Hoose said in a statement. “This organization uses books to invite immigrants to see their communities beautifully represented on the page and also to introduce longtime citizens to new American families. I love how this non-profit organization makes neighbors of us all.

South Portland Mayor Deqa Dhalac, herself an immigrant, said welcoming libraries should be present in all Maine schools.

“It has to be in schools that have kids of color and don’t have students of color. The children in these books live in our cities and if you don’t know them, you will meet them in books like this,” Dhalac said.

Michelle Amato, program coordinator for Portland Public Schools, said the books invite students to better understand the perspectives of others and empathize with those from diverse backgrounds and cultures.

“The welcoming library’s book collection migrates, as do the immigrant children it represents and includes,” Amato said. “When he came to our school, he gave our educators new tools to educate the public about our immigrant, refugee and New American families.”

“The donation (from Hoose) was a shock. He’s an incredibly generous writer,” Cappy said. “He’s seen the power of books and he knows how powerful they can be. We serve the most powerful agents of change in work, which are children.

Any educator or librarian in the country will be able to borrow a welcoming library by fall 2022, Cappy said.

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