LEWISTON — To promote reading and service to community, a group of Lewiston High School students will lead read-aloud gatherings Friday and Saturday, a few days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The students will read popular stories, plus some they wrote about overcoming obstacles, to younger children. Their stories involve “Cody the Crippled Chicken,” a superhero who helps hungry children and a boy who struggled to learn his alphabet but eventually was named student of the month.

Several immigrant student authors said they borrowed from their own experiences to write the short stories.

“Their stories are amazing,” said Jenn Carter, director of the 21st Century Program, an after-school program for students in Lewiston that organized the read-aloud event. Students in the program won a Youth Service American grant to sponsor such gatherings.

“The goal is to promote families reading together, or that reading can be a community service,” Carter said. “Often, students think of community service as a huge thing.” But it can be simply going home and reading to little sisters and brothers, especially when parents have reading challenges or don’t speak English.

Friday and Saturday’s reading audiences are expected to be in the hundreds and  include all ages, from grandparents to toddlers.

The Read Across Lewiston readings will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Hillview Community Center; from 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Lewiston Public Library and from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Tree Street Youth Center on Birch Street.

The first 25 children who attend the readings will be given a picture book.

About the “Read Across Lewiston” stories and authors

LEWISTON — Five of the 20 young authors who will read this weekend were interviewed about their stories and themselves at Lewiston High School, where they are students.

Zahara and Arbay Shidad, both 15, sisters, co-wrote “A Pathway to Success.”

Their story is about a boy named Tommy who struggles learning his ABC’s. He gets discouraged but keeps trying. Eventually his work pays off. His skills improve.

“The teacher rewards him,” Zahara said. “He becomes the student of the month” and does well in a spelling bee. Tommy encourages others in his class not to give up, to keep trying.

The Shidad sisters were born in Kenya and came to the United States in 2004. Zahara remembers being afraid when she saw snow for the first time in New York. “I thought literally the clouds were falling. I freaked out.”

They moved to Lewiston in 2006. Their school experience in the United States helped create their story.

“Honestly, when we came to America I was so confused,” Zahara said. “The teachers were asking me questions. I was like, ‘What the heck is she saying?’ I didn’t speak English. I hid under the table.”

Now they speak English so well, Arbay said, “we’ve forgotten our own language.” But they don’t intend to abandon their native language and culture.

Honey Shueyb, 16, wrote: “Daddy, Daddy, Whatcha Doing?”

In her story, the family is Muslim. “The little girl gets confused when she sees her dad doing these things,” Shueyb said. Her father is doing what’s expected in the Muslim faith, praying five times a day, giving to the poor, fasting, reading the Quran, planning a pilgrimage to Mecca.

The curious girl repeatedly asks her father questions. He is patient. The story ends with the girl yawning while asking him, again, what he’s doing. “He said, ‘Well sweetie, I am kissing you goodnight,’” Shueyb said.

She thought of the story when she discovered a lack of stories about Muslim girls. “This shows kids what we do.” Her story is based on herself as a little girl. “I asked those questions,” Shueyb said with a smile.

Shueyb came to Lewiston in January 2013 from Cape Town, South Africa. “My first language was English,” she said, adding that she’s learning her native Somali language. A frequent writer, she’s working on a book about a Somali girl adapting to a new culture.

Abshir Abukar, 14, wrote “Cody the Crippled Chicken,” about a chicken born with one leg.

“Everyone used to make fun of him,” Abukar said. The other chickens wouldn’t let him play games with them. Cody got mad but was determined, Abukar said.

In his story, there’s an upcoming annual race. All of the chicks are supposed to be training, but Cody is the only one practicing. “The other chickens were being lazy,” Abukar said. When the big race started, the other chickens started out front, but soon they fell back. “Cody went ahead and won.”

Abukar was born in Kenya, came to Indiana in 2004, then to Lewiston in 2008. His advice to young students is to be like Cody. “Don’t be lazy in school. Don’t procrastinate on your work. Get it done early.”

Saharo Aden, 16. Little kids love superheroes, Aden said. So she wrote about Superman not rescuing victims from criminals or falling from skyscrapers but performing the simple act of helping hungry children.

“The little kids learn to be helpful from Superman,” Aden said. “They’re hungry. They don’t know how to prepare food. They call Superman.”

Superman shows up, goes to the market to buy vegetables and cooks food for the kids. “The kids thank the superhero,” Aden said.

By writing and reading her story out loud to children, she hopes it will encourage them to read.

Aden was born in Kenya, and came to Lewiston in 2009 after living in Georgia. When she first attended school in the United States, “I didn’t know how to speak English. I had to learn how to read.” She enjoys reading to her younger brothers. They like “The Cat in the Hat” and “Calliou” books.

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