bububooks

Helping children develop their American and native cultural identities together.

Archive for October, 2009

Book Review: Divided City by Theresa Breslin

Posted by bububooks on October 27, 2009

If you haven’t guessed already, we at bububooks are fans of Theresa Breslin. Now we know her books are not bilingual, but we love the topics she covers.  Indeed, when we expand to monolingual yet ethnic books, we’ll be sure to include Theresa’s titles in our collection!

Book Cover for Divided City

Book Cover for Divided City

Divided City is a story for young adults and takes place in Glasgow. The two boys in the story come from different sides of the city, geographically, socially, historically and religiously. One is Roman Catholic while the other is Protestant.  They meet on a soccer team and forge a friendship through their unwitting and reluctant help to an asylum seeker.  As they each face their own internal struggles within their families and communities, the two boys, Graham and Joe, face their external struggles through each other.

“A gripping tale about two boys who must find their own answers–and their own way forward–in a world divided by differences.”

By enveloping the story in the rivalries of soccer (football), Breslin brings forward the tensions of various differences and tensions that circles in society face.  Once again, her structure also neatly sets up these differences. In the beginning, the chapters alternate in telling the separate stories of Joe and Graham. As the two grow together, at first simply in the time they spend together and later in their friendship bonds, their chapters blend together as well.  A riveting read (I couldn’t put it down!), Breslin uses this story to highlight where ethnic tensions come from and how we just might be able to rise above them.

Read this book if you get the chance!

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Latino teens happier, healthier if families embrace biculturalism

Posted by bububooks on October 23, 2009

Latino Print NetworkI wanted to share this article I received from the Latino Print Network by Kirk Whisler.  A new study from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill shows that Latino teens who embrace their Latino culture and whose parents embrace U.S. culture live healthier lives, academically, socially and emotionally.  I think the benefits of biculturalism would apply to all ethnic groups in the US because embracing both cultures in a family and environment supports a family and community bond. Read on and share your thoughts!

Over the years, research has shown that Latino youth face numerous risk factors when integrating into American culture, including increased rates of alcohol and substance use and higher rates of dropping out of school.

But a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shows adolescents who actively embrace their native culture – and whose parents become more involved in U.S. culture – stand a greater chance of avoiding these risks and developing healthier behaviors overall.

The findings are from a longitudinal study by the UNC-based Latino Acculturation and Health Project, which is supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and directed by Paul Smokowski, Ph.D., an associate professor at the UNC School of Social Work. Researchers interviewed 281 Latino youths and parents in North Carolina and Arizona, asking questions about a wide range of measures of lifestyle and mental health. Participants answered according to how much they agreed with each question (for example, from “not at all” to “very much”), resulting in scores on a scale for each measure.

“We found teens who maintain strong ties to their Latino cultures perform better academically and adjust more easily socially,” Smokowski said. “When we repeated the survey a year later, for every 1-point increase in involvement in their Latino cultures, we saw a 13 percent rise in self-esteem and a 12 to 13 percent decrease in hopelessness, social problems and aggressive behavior.

“Also, the study showed parents who develop a strong bicultural perspective have teen children who are less likely to feel anxiety and face fewer social problems,” he said. “For every increase in a parent’s involvement in United States culture, we saw a 15 to 18 percent decrease in adolescent social problems, aggression and anxiety one year later. Parents who were more involved in U.S. culture were in a better position to proactively help their adolescents with peer relations, forming friendships and staying engaged in school. This decreases the chances of social problems arising.”

“Such results suggest that Latino youth and their parents benefit from biculturalism,” Smokowski said.

The findings are presented as part of a series of articles featured next month in a special issue of The Journal of Primary Prevention, a collaborative initiative between UNC and the CDC. The special issue presents the latest research on how cultural adaptation influences Latino youth behaviors – including involvement in violence, smoking and substance use, as well as overall emotional well-being – and offers suggestions for primary prevention programs that support minority families.

“Bicultural adolescents tend to do better in school, report higher self esteem, and experience less anxiety, depression and aggression,” said study co-author Martica Bacallao, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, whose work is also featured in the special issue. “It is interesting that, in order to obtain these benefits of biculturalism, adolescents and parents often need to do the opposite of what their natural tendencies tell them. Parents who are strongly tied to their native cultures must reach out to learn skills in the new culture. Adolescents who quickly soak up new cultural behaviors should slow down and cultivate the richness in their native cultures.”

Smokowski added: “The burgeoning size of the Latino population and the increasingly important roles that Latino youth will play in American culture are worthy of community attention. Communities can either invest in prevention to nurture Latino youth as a national resource or pay a heavy price later in trying to help these youth address social problems such as substance use, aggression or dropping out of school; all of which often results from the stress of acculturation.”

Along with Smokowski and Bacallao, Rachel L. Buchanan, Ph.D., assistant professor of social work at Salisbury University in Maryland, was a co-author of the study, titled “Acculturation and Adjustment in Latino Adolescents: How Cultural Risk Factors and Assets Influence Multiple Domains of Adolescent Mental Health.”

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More events this past weekend, SCAEYC and the Georgia Literary Festival

Posted by bububooks on October 19, 2009

Rome Library

Rome Library

Jacey and Laura both represented bububooks at events this past weekend.  Jacey visited beautiful northwest Georgia for the annual Georgia Literary Festival in Rome.  Despite the cold temperatures, she says she enjoyed her time up there and got to meet some pretty cool people, authors and booksellers.  Maybe she and her husband will make a camping trip up there in the near future!

SCAEYCLaura headed up to Columbia, South Carolina, for the South Carolina Association for the Education of Young Children conference.  Having never been to South Carolina before, she thoroughly enjoyed the city of Columbia and the people.  By the end, she was giving hugs as she left the conference!  At the conference, Laura met lots of GREAT people who are all seeking to improve the lives of children and teachers in South Carolina.  She says it was an inspiring weekend and she looks forward to going back as she develops stronger relationships with the people she met from throughout the state.  She’s so sad (and has been chastised by us) that she didn’t get any pictures of her new friends but promises to take more pictures next time. It has been her favorite trip for bububooks by far!  Thank you South Carolina and the SCAEYC!

GA Lit Fest

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Fun and Surprise at GAYC

Posted by bububooks on October 13, 2009

bububooks' booth at GAYCI had so much fun this past weekend in Atlanta at the Georgia Association on Young Children conference.  Not only did I enjoy meeting various childcare providers from throughout the state, but I also appreciated the enthusiastic response from them regarding our mission at bububooks to help bilingual children with literacy and cultural identity development.

I also had two pleasant surprises throughout the weekend. First, my hotel happened to be in a Korean part of town.  Being half-Korean, I found my way to a BBQ restaurant and indulged in some good ol’ Korean BBQ!  Even better, I invited some newly made friends to join me. It was both their first times to try Korean food and they loved it! I thought, “what a great way to embrace our mission by introducing people to a new cuisine!”  Second, as I was packing up at the end of the conference, I walked past a room where a session was still continuing.  The attendees were singing a song I had never heard before. However, the tune was that of the Air Force Song! I found myself humming the Song as I finished loading up the car (I’m an Air Force veteran).  I couldn’t believe I still remembered the words and it brought back many memories of the jovial times in which we would sing the first verse. J

Thanks to GAYC and all the attendees for making my trip so joyful! Off we go into the wild, blue yonder…

Laura

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Bilingual babies learn better!

Posted by bububooks on October 5, 2009

A man reading with his sonResearch has shown that bilingual babies learn two languages at the same pace as monolingual babies learn one language, even though they’re learning twice as much.  Even better, two researchers recently learned in their scientific study that bilingual babies are ‘flexible learners’ and use their learning skills more efficiently.  They pick up on skills faster and can apply them to other aspects in their learning. Read the article we’ve posted below by Jean Mercer, Ph.D. from Psychology Today to see her full explanation of the study and its findings.

What great encouragement to raise your kids bilingually!!

Taken from: Child Myths
Straight Talk About Child Development

by Jean Mercer, Ph.D.

Jean Mercer is a developmental psychologist with a special interest in parent-infant relationships.

Bilingual Babies: Another Myth Busted

Surprise! Bilingual babies do better at learning.

In my last post, I commented on some preferences and behaviors that help babies pay attention to talking adults and learn about language from what they hear. Babies’ social interest in other people and their attentiveness to high-pitched, emphatic speech are factors that help them learn from baby talk. When adults talk to other adults, or when television or an audiotape provides speech experience, babies don’t learn as much as they do from baby talk.

What are some other relevant factors about babies’ experience with the spoken language? One situation of considerable interest is the experience of two or more different languages, whether spoken by the same person or by different people. Many of us would guess that life could be very confusing for bilingual babies and that they might be slowed down in their general language learning. At least, that’s what many people would guess in the United States, where a large proportion of the population is monolingual, and where language learning is generally regarded as difficult. Assumptions are probably different in the many parts of the world where most people are fluent from an early age in two, three, or more languages. Different groups treasure different myths, and the one about the language difficulties of bilingual babies is one that belongs primarily to monolingual English-speaking Americans.

A recent article by Agnes Kovacs and Jacques Mehler ( “Flexible learning of multiple speech structures in bilingual infants”, Science, 2009, Vol. 325, pp. 611-612) includes some surprising reports about bilingual 12-monh-olds. For starters, Kovacs and Mehler point out previous research showing that bilingual children achieve language developmental milestones at about the same age as learners of a single language, even though that means they have to learn about twice as much. Whether they are learning one language or two, babies say their first words at an average of about 12 months ( although there are many individual differences in this, and that average is made up of babies whose first word comes anywhere from 9 months to perhaps 18 months).

Can it be that bilingual babies learn more than just language from their bilingual experiences? Kovacs and Mehler were interested in this question and wondered whether the bilingual children’s experience might help them become more efficient in understanding and using information from speech. The researchers set up a situation in which 12-month-olds could learn that the structure of a “nonsense word” would tell them whether an interesting toy was going to appear on the left or on the right. There were two kinds of nonsense words, each consisting of three syllables. For one kind, the first and the last syllables were the same, and the middle syllable was different for (instance, “lo-vu-lo”). For the other kind, the first two syllables were the same, and the last one was different (for instance, “lo-lo-vu”). The babies saw and heard the appearance of the toy and the sound pattern associated in a consistent way. “Lo-vu-lo” could mean that the toy would be on the left, and “lo-lo-vu” could mean that the toy would be on the right, for example. Kovacs and Mehler had a device that measured the babies’ eye movements and showed in which direction a baby was looking at a given time, so they could see whether each baby learned to look in the direction indicated by a particular sound pattern.

Now, here’s the myth-busting surprise: although all the babies learned that one pattern (such as “lo-lo-vu”) meant that the toy was in a particular place, only the bilingual babies learned both associations– that “lo-lo-vu” meant “look left”, and “lo-vu-lo” meant “look right.” In a further experiment, the monolingual babies could learn that a male voice saying the nonsense word meant to look one direction and a female voice meant to look the other direction, so they were capable of learning something about speech sounds and directions. But the monolingual babies did not manage to learn at this early age that different but similar sound patterns had different meanings.

Kovacs and Mehler concluded that the experience of bilingual life had made these babies “flexible learners” who could apply their very efficient learning skills to get a lot of information out of the speech sounds they heard, selecting the right response out of the two they had learned. Of course, choosing the right response is an essential part of much school performance. If you subtract even though you see a plus sign, or add even though you see a minus sign, you won’t get the right answer, no matter how many facts you know.

Watch for the first commercial application of this research– but don’t buy it unless there’s good evidence that it helps facilitate flexible learning outside the laboratory!

Thanks for reading. By the way, October 3, 2009, was the Mid-Autumn holiday in China and many other countries. We hope you enjoyed the festivities!

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