1 December 2023

En 2021 and in 2022, reading was declared a “great national cause” by the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron. Today, we must go even further: reading must also become a “great cause” of the policy of welcoming refugees in France, and this from an early age!

Many studies show the importance of exposure to books in the cognitive development of children. Books develop language, memory and imagination. They awaken the senses, invite you to dream and stimulate creativity. They promote empathy and the ability to express emotions.

Direct consequence: inequalities in access to books at the earliest ages are the crucible of inequalities that will increase throughout life, during schooling, studies, professional life.

However, there are places in France where the lack of access to books is glaring, whereas it could be the most beneficial there: emergency accommodation centres, which take in more and more exiled children with their family. Due to a lack of resources and awareness of the public authorities on the issue, the supply of suitable books is almost non-existent.

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However, books – and the necessary mediation that accompanies them – would be wonderful companions for exiled children on their first steps towards integration. They would promote their learning of the host language while recreating the link with their mother tongue. They would help those most affected to overcome their traumas. They would change the lives of these young readers, and more broadly that of their families.

“We must better recognize and strengthen the role of public libraries, which are on the front line in welcoming exiled populations”

Because the book is a precious vector of inclusion, it is now essential to:

– create a reading area in each accommodation center in France;

– train mediators, volunteers, passionate readers to promote books in reception structures and arouse the desire to continue the adventure in the library and at school;

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– support parents in setting up these suspended moments of family reading, so that they reproduce them in the intimate sphere;

– better recognize and strengthen the role of public libraries which are on the front line in welcoming exiled populations, but too often neglected by the public authorities in the construction of integration pathways.

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