World Refugee Day Event: Millie's supporters gather at the Women's Museum of California for a World Refugee Day reception

Millie’s Bookshelf – Refugee-led Reading Program in Za’atari Refugee Camp

A growing problem in refugee communities is the presence of book deserts – environments where it is virtually impossible for families to access reading resources. The lack of humanitarian investment in educational infrastructure – less than 3.6% of global budgets – is compounding this problem. Early access to reading materials is critical in helping children develop pre-literacy skills that assist with language acquisition and socio-emotional development. Additionally, reading can provide psychological benefits for children who are coping with toxic stress due to the trauma of displacement. At Millie’s Bookshelf, we seek to mitigate book deserts that affect displaced children and provide a safe space for them to learn and play, promoting literacy and resilience.

To achieve this goal, we install micro libraries in community spaces and deliver refugee-led literacy programs for children aged 4 to 6 years old. By partnering with a local nonprofit to co-host our space, we are able to keep overhead costs low and ensure contextually-relevant programming that is responsive to local needs. In 2020, we are partnering with the Jordan Health Aid Society (JHAS) to implement our programs in Za’atari Refugee Camp in Mafraq, Jordan, which serves Syrian refugees. JHAS operates the sole maternity clinic in Za’atari Camp – the Women and Girls Comprehensive Center – where we will install a child-friendly micro library space and run a literacy-focused reading program.

The generous support from The Pollination Project will fund the translation of our program materials from English into Arabic. From our reading curriculum to our literacy surveys and informed consent documents, the importance of this translation support cannot be overstated. We are overjoyed to pilot our programs in Jordan and are tremendously grateful for the support that The Pollination Project has given us to achieve our goals.