January 2019 | Photography © Lucy Gellman
Zafa is a 27-year-old mother from Afghanistan who arrived in the USA in 2016, with her husband and four children. Her youngest daughter came to class with her. She, a pleasant little girl with big brown eyes and a thick brown bob, never said anything to us, but she always listened intently as they spoke to her while she played with dolls and squished play-doh.
Zafa first came to class knowing a few phrases in English:
Hello, my name is…
How are you…
She did not have much of a grasp on the English alphabet and had to be shown how to grip a pencil correctly. She was shy at first, but was very motivated. She participated and practiced diligently in class. Phonics lessons allowed her to begin reading and by the end of the course, she was able to read consonant-vowel-consonant words with accuracy!
During the course she learned practical skills like how to read a food store advertisement and plan a shopping list, how to express that she or her child is ill and when to go to the doctor, and how to respond to a text message. Her progress has been dramatic. At first her husband dropped her off to the first class, but then she started getting to class by herself or together with other mothers. She had even made friends. With her English literacy progress and social interactions, she gained confidence to navigate the New Haven community.
A special message from one of our students…
The Family Literacy Program is uniquely designed to meet the needs of refugee mothers with young children, who have no other options for learning English. Four mornings a week, refugee mothers bring their young children to an adjacent preschool readiness class and then attend English class. The multi-level class—taught by an experienced teacher and many volunteers—focuses on extremely practical applications of reading, writing, and speaking English in order to improve the women’s integration and help them manage their family’s daily tasks, support their children’s education, and engage in community life.
The Family Literacy Program is made possible by dedicated volunteers, generous donors, the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven Women & Girl’s Fund, Women’s Congregational Home Missionary Union of Connecticut (WCHMU) Anna Harris Andrews Fund, J.Walton Bissel Foundation, Dollar General Literacy Fund, and IRIS Staff.