Raise-a-Reader: Afghan family embrace a culture with children’s books

September 26, 2021

By Vancouver Sun |

When Mahrukh Barakzai first came to Canada from Afghanistan in 2017 she knew a little bit of English. But she was far too self-conscious to try speaking it.

Barakzai is studying English and math through courses offered via a partnership between the Canucks Family Education Centre and the Vancouver school board. Her preschool children take part in CFEC’s Get Ready 2 Read (GR2R) early learning program, which runs concurrently while the parents are in class. Funds from The Vancouver Sun’s Raise-a-Reader campaign help support the GR2R program. The campaign has raised over $20 million since 1997.

“I always tell my friends to go and register themselves with Canucks Family Education,” Barakzai said. “It’s not only about education, it’s about emotional support. For whoever is coming from outside of the country, for someone who is a refugee or an immigrant, everything is there.”

Barakzai came to the country with her husband and their two daughters. Her husband felt that his job with the World Bank was too dangerous.

“He said we can’t live here, because he or our kids might be kidnapped.”

The family applied for both American and Canadian visas. When the American visa came through, they left within a week. They were receiving threatening messages from the Taliban. After a month in the U.S., they crossed the border into Canada. They did not know anyone in the country.

Once here, Barakzai, who was pregnant with their third child, found out about the CFEC programs through a social worker at B.C. Women’s Hospital. The programs are ideal for her because she can study while her younger children are looked after.

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