Language can be a barrier.

It can also be a bridge.

Libraries often serve as a critical first connection point for immigrants and refugees settling in the United States.

At Cuyahoga County Public Library, we have seen a significant increase in Afghan refugees participating in library programs. To support this growth, the CCPL Foundation recently provided grant funding to serve individuals needing extra time to learn basic literacy skills.

Lida and Nazira attend ESOL classes at CCPL’s Parma-Snow Branch to ease the transition from Afghanistan to the US. They are both soft-spoken, switching between Farsi and English as they help each other find the right words to express what the Library has meant to them. They credit their instructor, Jonathan, for giving them the confidence to speak this new language.

“Without the class, it was difficult to even go to the supermarket,” said Lida. “The class has helped me with grammar, speaking, and writing in English.” 

Lida arrived in the United States just three months ago, when her medical school studies were cut short. “I was in my last year of medical school when the Taliban forbid all women from schooling,” she explained. “Here, I can continue my dream to become a doctor, and this is the first step, to learn English.” She expressed how important it was for her to have learning opportunities, so she can be independent and build a new life in the United States.