Saving Stories Mission

In the fall of 2013 the Saving Stories project was launched in the Baldwin and Whitehall communities in suburban Pittsburgh, PA. Allegheny County is home to Pennsylvania's second highest percentage of resettled refugees. These refugees, whose families have been displaced from their homeland for a generation or longer, resettle here with limited or no formal schooling. The process of learning to read in English is easier when a foundation in native literacy exists. Unfortunately, many of our students and older refugees are not literate in their native languages. There are few appropriate bilingual resources to help the children and adults learn to read in their first language. Thus Saving Stories was created. This project has become a community -wide collaborative effort to collect, record and preserve native stories, folk tales, poems and songs from our refugee population. This project's many benefits are outlined below.


Creating and using bilingual picture books will strengthen first and second language literacy for our English Language Learners. Studies show that literacy skills learned in the first language transfer to the second language, making learning to read English easier and faster for students and adults alike. It is a win-win project because literacy is improved in both languages!

Cultural Traditions

The Saving Stories books would capture native culture and folklore held, to date, in oral form only, preserving it for future generations before it is lost. Our books would be archived at the public and school libraries, as well as ESL public school classrooms, community preschools, and adult ESL classrooms.

Native Literacy

Most of the Baldwin-Whitehall School District English as a Second Language students are refugees whose families have been displaced from their homeland for a generation or more. These students come to the USA with limited formal schooling. Thus it is rare that they arrive with strong literacy skills in their native languages. In addition to the students, many older refugees are non-literate in their native language. Many of these adults are taking adult ESL classes, and the Saving Stories books will help strengthen their literacy skills as well.


Saving Stories has united generations and cultures. It has fostered collaboration among many community groups committed to supporting local refugees. It has strengthened generational bonds among children, parents and grandparents within the refugee community as they learn and share. It has created greater appreciation and understanding across the various cultures as well. Saving Stories also promotes positive public awareness, both within schools and throughout the community.


Creating a welcoming climate for families of different cultures can be a challenge in today's society. Working together to support our refugee population on this project is helping them to successfully integrate into American life. These books will be proud visual evidence of their culture and history and their presence on the shelves of the public and school libraries will offer a warm and inclusive welcome to these newest members of the community.


We can't wait to publish and share these books! Books created for them and by them, within their own community. Books that will encourage the American tradition of reading aloud to children. Books that will celebrate and preserve their native languages and cultures. Books that will also serve as learning tools for the entire community.