bububooks

Helping children develop their American and native cultural identities together.

Posts Tagged ‘bilingual chinese english books’

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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Tips for teachers of English language learners

Posted by bububooks on September 13, 2009

As teachers get ready for school to start in the fall, they might consider a few tips on making students welcome who don’t speak English as a native language. More students speak Spanish as their first language than any other group in the U.S., but there are over a hundred other mother tongues spoken by kids from kindergarten to twelfth grade around this country. No one teacher can possibly know all of these. So, what’s a teacher to do? Two websites offer some practical advice:

http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3747021&FullBreadCrumb=%3Ca+href%3D%22http%3A%2F

and http://www.colorincolorado.org/educators/reachingout/welcoming

There is plenty of research demonstrating that English language learners (or ELLs for short) learn best by drawing on what they already know. That means, they learn best when they start with the language they already speak, their native language (or L1). Children are not blank states when starting kindergarten. This tends to be an unpopular notion in many places, as it was in the Word Geek’s childhood. The idea back in the Olden Days was to punish a child for speaking anything but the “best” meaning the textbook or Standard version of English. The result was, predictably, that kids who didn’t already speak a pretty standard version quit talking altogether in school and made very little progress, then stopped going to school as soon as they could get away with it. This tended to be around the fourth grade (age 8 or 9). Or, because these children struggle to learn math and science in their L2, they get placed in special education classes in which they become bored and disgruntled. This pattern is NOT recommended!

Instead of following this mournful and unsuccessful pattern, consider the tips described by David and Yvonne Freeman at the first site above:

1. Pair a newcomer (an ELL with little or no English) with a partner who speaks his or her L1 as well as some English. Make sure the partner knows this buddy position is a prestigious job and you are very impressed at how well he or she carries it off. The buddy’s job description should include making sure the newcomer knows the class rules, gets the class assignments, and, hopefully, this buddy does some translating.

2. Invite a parent volunteer into the classroom to read aloud to the class in the L1 of the newcomer(s). If this involves showing lots of pictures, even the English speakers should get something out of it. Plus, they’ll get some idea of what it’s like to be unable to understand every word of what’s going on – empathy, in other words. Not a bad idea!

3. Let the kids speak in their L1. The Word Geek wishes to put this one up in lights, so she will repeat it in capital letters and add an exclamation mark: LET THE KIDS SPEAK IN THEIR L1! Maybe she should throw some firecrackers in to get some people’s attention here, adding extra exclamation marks for more emphasis. LET THE KIDS SPEAK IN THEIR L1!!!

4. Build a class library in the students’ L1s. It’s especially helpful if some of these books are what we once called “ponies,” in the Olden Days. That means, there is the L1 on one page. On the facing page, the same text is in English. This way, a student sees that his or her native language is respected and supported, and the child can go from the known (L1) to the unknown (L2), with a lot less pain and hassle. The Word Geek was once very fond of such ponies and still has a few in her possession.

5. Organize bilingual tutoring, for example by partnering with a teacher of a class a year or two older than your own, in which there are students who speak the same L1 as your students. These older kids who presumably also speak a little more English can help tutor your students, do a little translating. It’s good for their education and self-esteem as well as helping your students along. A person never learns better than when helping someone else learn.

6. Provide students pen pals, whether in their L1 or L2, and whether through e-mail or by means of old-fashioned pen and paper. Go to the first website above to find a couple of online sites to locate e-mail pen pals. This type of writing is a lot more interesting than writing boring sentences in response to even duller reading exercises.

7. Encourage writing in a journal, whether in the L1 or L2. Sometimes, writing about the acquisition of L2 (namely English) in the L1 is one of the best ways to get a student to think about it after school.

8. Create books of students’ own writings. That is to say, with the computer it is relatively easy to type up things that students write, duplicate them, print them out, and even bind them in inexpensive ways. These can be done in the L1 or L2. “Ponies” created in this way can be distributed to the entire class, giving a newcomer a new feeling of being part of a class, not an outsider. Many of the fonts required to print, say, Vietnamese or Arabic or whatever are already available on the internet for free – or relatively cheaply.

9. Use L1 storytellers to support the ELLs language and culture and share with the rest of the class. The teacher can help bring in the rest of the class by teaching a story ahead of time, or having the class read the story or act it out, if they are too young to read it yet. That way, no one need feel left out when the storyteller comes and speaks another language.

10. Put up the signs that are displayed in the classroom in both English and any L1s spoken by students. This shows that the L1 is valued and, therefore, the student who speaks it is also valued.

Time for an object lesson:  When the Word Geek took an introductory linguistics class in college, years ago, the professor told of taking a rabbit in a cage to a first grade classroom. The children in the classroom seemed inordinately quiet and the regular teacher agreed, saying that the kiddies were all “culturally deprived” (using the parlance of the times).

The linguistics professor said that she had a cure for that dread condition. The rabbit was part of it. She put the cage on the teacher’s desk and told the silent students that she and the other teacher had to leave the classroom for a moment. “But I need you kids to help me out,” she told them. “Mr. Bunny will get very, very sick if I go away and nobody talks to him. So, while we’re gone, you need to talk to him and keep talking until I get back. Will you do that for me?” 

The kids silently nodded.

The professor and the teacher silently left the classroom. The kids did not see, but the professor had silently started a tape recorder behind the desk.

When the professor got back, as soon as she opened the door of the classroom, the kids were quiet, so she had no idea if her plan had worked. But later, when she played the tape for the teacher, the two adults heard a great cacophony of noise. The whole time the grownups had been out of the room, all the children had been talking to that rabbit, calling him “Mr. Bunny,” telling him not to be scared, letting him know he would be all right. They did not speak perfect Standard English. But they could speak all right and their meaning was clear enough.

Why wouldn’t they talk when their teacher was there? As the professor pointed out to us, when someone gets onto you every time you open your mouth, you stop opening your mouth. So, at the risk of beating a dead horse, LET THE KIDS SPEAK IN THEIR L1. They’ll eventually get to L2 that way. But if they stop talking altogether, they’ll never get anywhere.

This article was written by Diana Gainer, the Word Geek Examiner, on http://www.examiner.com.  Laura Renner added some of her own thoughts as well.

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Getting your toddler ready to read

Posted by bububooks on August 10, 2009

Hello there! This blog posting serves as a ‘prequel’ of sorts to the last blog posting and focuses on getting your toddler (2 or 3 years old) ready to read.  Below is a checklist for you as you help your toddler grow with strong reading skills.  And REMEMBER: you can follow this checklist in the language YOU feel most comfortable!  Literacy skills transfer across languages, so be sure to expose your children to your native language.

√ I read with my child every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

√ I encourage my child to bring his favorite books to me so that we can read together.

√ I point to pictures and name them out loud, and encourage my child to point to pictures while we read.

√ I watch to see if my child sometimes makes eye contact with me when I read aloud.  That tells me she is paying attention to me and the story.

√ I talk with my child throughout the day about things we are doing and things that are happening around us.

√ I try to be patient when my child wants to read the same book over and over again.

√ I encourage my child to “play” with books—pick them up, flip them from front to back, and turn the pages.

√ Sometimes I listen when my child “pretends,” to read a book—he holds the book, goes from page to page, and says words, even though they’re not the words on the page.

√ I give my child paper and crayons so she can scribble, make pictures, and pretend to write.

This checklist was taken from the National Institute of Literacy.  More information can be found at www.nifl.gov/nifl/publications.html.  Happy reading!

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Getting your preschooler ready to read

Posted by bububooks on August 6, 2009

A man reads with his son

As the start of school approaches, you and your preschooler may be nervous!  So many firsts will occur during the preschool years—how exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time.  One of those many firsts will include learning to read.  Below is a checklist from the National Institute for Literacy that offers ways to help your child “get ready to read” during the ages of 4 and 5.

√ I help my child hear and say the first sound in words (like “b” in boat), and notice when different words start with the same sound (like “boat” and “book”).

√ I help my child hear words that rhyme (like moose, goose, and caboose).

√ I introduce new words to my child, like “bow” and “stern,” which mean the front of a boat and the back of a boat.

√ I talk with my child about the letters of the alphabet and notice them in books, like “c” for canoe.

√ I point out signs and labels that have letters, like street signs and foods in the grocery store.

√ I encourage my child to find the joy and fun in reading.  Usually, I let my child choose the books we read.

√ I let my child pretend to read parts of the books when we read together.

√ I talk with my child about stories and make connections to things that happen in our own lives.

√ I ask “what,” “where,” and “how” questions when I read with my child to help her follow along and understand the stories.

√ I help my child write notes or make books (like an alphabet book), even if his writing only looks like scribbles or marks.

For checklists on other age ranges and for more information, visit the National Institute for Literacy at http://www.nifl.gov/nifl/publications.html

Literacy begins at home!

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Two reasons for bububooks

Posted by bububooks on July 28, 2009

bububooks' logo

bububooks' logo

After a great weekend at Latino Expo USA and the Chicago Chinatown Dragon Boat Race for Literacy, I thought I would use today’s blog to offer two reasons to shop at www.bububooks.com

1)   Reading skills transfer across languages. Even if your child learns to read in Spanish or Chinese, they’ll be able to transfer those reading skills once they start to learn English.  Therefore, read to your child in the language you’re most comfortable.

Also, children like to read the same books over and over.  If you have two languages at home (each parent has their own dominant language), use bilingual books to read the story to your children in both languages.

The most important thing is to read to your child!  It does not necessarily have to be in English.  Read in the language you are most comfortable.

2)   These books help your child to develop their cultural identities.  The main character in most children’s books is Caucasian.  bububooks strives to offer storybooks that highlight aspects of Latino (mostly Mexican-American as of now) and Chinese culture.  Even if your child doesn’t speak a foreign language, the lack of children stories that discuss topics related to your culture will affect how they view themselves and your culture.

Thanks for your continued support.  We hope to see you at our next event or online!

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More tips for reading at home with your child

Posted by bububooks on July 24, 2009

I enjoyed these tips so much I had to share them with you.  They were written by Deanna Lyles, cofounder of Bilingual Readers, a brand new publishing company which provides resources for bilingual and multilingual families and communities.  This article was taken from http://www.SpanglishBaby.com.

A very patient Spanish speaking mom has been reading her daughter Sara’s favorite book Yo Tigre out loud to her in Spanish every night at bedtime for the last month. But tonight Mom’s out with some friends, and it’s English speaking Dad’s turn to read Sara to sleep. He dutifully pulls out adorable children’s book after adorable children’s book, but it’s no use: Sara wants Yo Tigre, and Where the Wild Things Are just isn’t going to cut it. What’s a bilingual Dad to do? Is it alright for a parent in a One Parent One Language home to break his commitment to speaking to his child only in his native language when the child’s love of reading is at stake?

Most of us are aware that reading aloud to small children is one of the greatest tools parents have for helping their children’s language development along. But when it comes to reading aloud in a bilingual home, many questions arise as to who should read to children in what languages. In OPOL homes the easy answer is that each parent should read to the child in his or her native language, but putting this principle into practice is often anything but simple.

Although they are sometimes hard to find for certain language combinations, bilingual books are one of the best tools for getting the most out of storytime in a OPOL home. While reading monolingual books to your children is certainly beneficial, bilingual books are an especially useful tool for bilingual families. Bilingual books allow both parents to take turns reading the same book to their kids, each parent in his own language. If one parent reads a book to a child in English and the other parent reads the same book in Spanish, the child will automatically begin to associate both languages with the stories and objects on the pages of the book. We all know that children love to read and be read the same stories over and over again, so hearing the exact same text in each language every time a book is read is an easy way to reinforce vocabulary and sentence structure for the bilingual child.

In addition to taking advantage of bilingual books, there are also other strategies for reading consistently to your kids while sticking to the OPOL method. Regardless of whether or not you read monolingual or bilingual books (most families will read both),establish a routine to make sure that each parent is reading to the kids in his or her language every single day. If you stick to this routine, it’ll be a great tool for developing your child’s language abilities in both languages. You can also make recordings of your voice reading your kids’ favorite stories out loud. This way your child can still listen to Mom’s soothing voice read a story in Spanish or Dad doing all the fun voices in English anytime, anywhere. (A friend confessed that these recordings are also great for long trips in the car).

Last but not least, if you’ve broken the rules and read a story to your child in your second language, don’t beat yourself up over it. While consistency is key in any bilingual home, nobody’s perfect and slipping up every once in a while will not scar your child for life. The same thing goes for those of you who may not have been consistent readers in the past. Thankfully each day is a new opportunity to read to and with your children. Happy reading!

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Big weekend coming up for bububooks!

Posted by bububooks on July 20, 2009

bububooks will have a booth at two major events this upcoming weekend in Chicago.  One will be at the Latin Family Expo at McCormick Place West July 25-28.  The other will be at the 2009 Chicago Dragon Boat Race for Literacy in the Ping Tom Memorial Park on July 25th.

Latin Expo USA

2009 Latin Expo USA

2009 Latin Expo USA

The Latin Expo USA represents a significant part of the National Council of La Raza Annual Conference.  Open to the public with free admission, the Expo will feature over 200 exhibitors (including bububooks) for you and your family to enjoy.  The Expo will also feature health and career fairs.  The schedule is as follows:

Saturday, July 25 10:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Sunday, July 26 10:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Monday, July 27 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 – 5:00 p.m.

We’ve been preparing for this big event and hope to see you there! 

Dragon Boat Race for Literacy

The Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce presents the 9th annual Dragon Boat Race for Literacy. The Chinese Dragon Boat Race has a history of over 2,000 years and is a popular sport among Chinese and Asian communities all over the world. Started in 1999, the Chicago Dragon Boat Race has always been a family-fun activity enjoyed by the residents of Chinatown and the surrounding neighborhoods. Each year, almost 10,000 people watch and participate in the activities. In 2008, the event raised over $6,000 to support literacy and the promotion of culture and diversity in our local schools.  bububooks, of course, supports literacy and so we’re proud to be a part of this event! The competition begins at 9:00 a.m. and races end at approximately 4:00 p.m. Opening ceremonies begin at 8:30 a.m. Admission is free for all.  Hope to see you there!

2009 Chicago Dragon Boat Race for Literacy

2009 Chicago Dragon Boat Race for Literacy

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New book at bububooks: The Frog in the Well/井底之蛙

Posted by bububooks on July 14, 2009

 

The cover of The Frog in the Well

The cover of The Frog in the Well

The Frog in the Well retells a Chinese idiom.  Chinese idioms tend to be four characters long and paint a moral teaching.  The frog that lives in a well believes the well encompasses the entire world and that he understands it better than anyone else.  One day the frog meets a sea turtle that introduces the wide, deep ocean full of much more life than the well.  From this experience, the frog realizes a world exists outside the well.

New author Irene Tsai highlights the moral lesson that one should not be narrow-minded and, instead, be aware of the “ocean of knowledge for him to learn.”  She does so in this beautifully and clearly illustrated book—by Pattie Caprio—that includes both traditional and simplified characters along with pinyin and zhuyin.   Irene also succeeds in offering imagery for the life the frog is living, something that will certainly capture the attention and imagination of children.

Indeed, The Frog in the Well has won the Reader Views 2009 Reviewers Choice Award and has received rave reviews that are copied below.

“What a delightful book!  It has a meaningful message, and the illustrations are charming!  My father attempted to teach me Chinese when I was a child.  I would have loved this book!  I know that The Frog in the Well will be enjoyed by aspiring language students, their parents, and teachers.”
                                                                 –Dominie Soo Bush, Writer and Educator, FL

 “Irene Tsai tells stories that speak to readers of all ages.  She has a unique ability to convey classic Chinese stories by using language and tone that children today can appreciate.  She expands cultural boundaries and provides an avenue for nurturing your child’s emotional development.”
                                     –Harsh K. Trivedi M.D., Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist
                                     Brown Medical School, RI

The Frog in the Well is both beautifully written and illustrated.  The story of how the frog views his world will jump off the pages for children while educating them about Chinese culture and language.”
                                      –Tom Watkins, Michigan State Superintendent of Schools (2001-2005)
                                       Honorary Professor, Mianyang University

The Frog in the Well is now available at www.bububooks.com.  Check it out today!

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5 Easy Activities for Summer Learning

Posted by bububooks on July 9, 2009

Colorin Colorado

Colorin Colorado

Below is an article taken from Colrín Colorado, a bilingual (Spanish and English) website for families and educators of English Language Learners.  It offers five tips for helping your child continue to learn over the summer break.  Scroll down for the English version.  Enjoy!

 

Cinco consejos gratuitos y sencillos para el aprendizaje de verano

Por: Brenda McLaughlin y Jane Voorhees Sharp (2008)

Existen estudios bien documentados sobre cuánto de lo ya aprendido pierden los niños durante el verano. Harris Cooper de la Universidad Duke observa que “en general, durante el verano los niños experimentan una pérdida promedio de lo aprendido en lectura y matemáticas que equivale a un mes de aprendizaje” (1996).

La cuestión es que los niños no tienen por qué perder nada de lo aprendido durante el verano. En realidad, usted puede alentar a su hijo a disfrutar del verano y a aprender siguiendo estos cinco consejos gratuitos y sencillos. ¡Pruébelos!

1. Leer todos los días

Estudios de investigación

A nivel de la escuela media, leer cuatro o cinco libros durante el verano influye de manera positiva en el nivel de lectura que puede alcanzar el niño en otoño, comparable con la asistencia a la escuela de verano. (Kim, 2004)

Sugerencias

Lleve a sus hijos a la biblioteca con frecuencia y permítales que escojan sus propios libros. Escuchen libros en audio. Suscríbanse a una revista. Túrnense para leerle el uno al otro. Permítales a los niños quedarse despiertos hasta media hora más si es para leer.

2. Usar las matemáticas todos los días

Estudios de investigación
 

El área donde se registra la mayor pérdida que sufren los niños durante el verano es en el área de los cómputos matemáticos, a un nivel de 2.6 meses promedio de aprendizaje. (Cooper, 1996)

Sugerencias

Practiquen las tablas de multiplicar aumentando 7 veces (o hasta 8 ó 9) el valor de cada punto en un juego de baloncesto. Pídales a los niños que pidan cambio en la ventanilla de autoservicio. Enséñeles a los niños cómo ingresar en www.coolmath.com en inglés) para jugar juegos de matemáticas. Invente problemas de matemáticas cuando viajan en automóvil o durante la cena.

3. Salir a jugar

Estudios de investigación

Los programas de actividad física intensa tienen efectos positivos en los logros académicos, además de mayor concentración, mejores calificaciones en pruebas de matemáticas, lectura y escritura, y menos casos de mal comportamiento. (Journal of School Health, 1997)

Sugerencias

Busque opciones para que su hijo haga actividad durante 60 minutos por día. Sugiérale pasear el paseo del vecino, ir a nadar, jugar al badminton o al fútbol, salir a caminar o andar en bicicleta en familia. Busque formas seguras y divertidas de salir a jugar durante todo el año. Visite los sitios de Internet Los niños en su casa, PBS Padres, y los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades para consultar más ideas y información en español.

4. Escribir todas las semanas

Estudios de investigación

La mayoría de los estudiantes de primer año que ingresan en instituciones postsecundarias para cursar un título de grado deben tomar clases de refuerzo de escritura más que clases de lectura. (NCES 2003)

Sugerencias

Pídale a su hijo que les escriba una carta por semana a sus abuelos, parientes o amigos. Anímelo para que escriba un diario de verano. Pídale que escriba la lista de las compras para la familia. Organice un proyecto del amigo invisible por carta para adultos y niños en su iglesia o comunidad.

5. Hacer una buena acción

Estudios de investigación

Los estudiantes aprenden más y “actúan” menos cuando participan en actividades que ayudan a su desarrollo socioemocional, como el servicio comunitario. (The Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning, 2004)

Sugerencias

Incentive a su hijo para que ayude a sus vecinos o amigos. Puede ofrecerse como voluntario de un grupo local o participar de un proyecto educativo de servicio. Sugiérale que reserve parte de su asignación para donarla. Miren juntos el sitio de Internet Big Help de Nickelodeon (en inglés) y el sitio de Parent Link Rhode Island (en español) para tener más ideas.

 

Five Free and Easy Tips for Summer Learning: Research Pointers and What You Can Do

 

By: Brenda McLaughlin and Jane Voorhees Sharp (2005)

Research about how much children lose ground over the summer is well documented. Harris Cooper of Duke University notes, “Overall, children experience an average summer learning loss across reading and mathematics of about one month” (1996).

The thing is, though, kids don’t have to lose over the summer. In fact, you can encourage your child to have a summer of fun and learning with these five free and easy things to do. Try them out!

1. Read Every Day

The Research

At the middle school level, reading four to five books over the summer has a positive impact on fall reading achievement comparable to attending summer school (Kim, 2004).

Suggestions

Take your kids to the library often and let them choose which books to check out. Listen to books on tape. Subscribe them to a magazine. Take turns reading to each other. Allow your kids to stay up a half hour later at night as long as they’re reading.

2. Use Math Every Day

The Research

The largest summer learning losses for all children occur in mathematical computation, an average of 2.6 months (Cooper, 1996).

Suggestions

Practice the multiplication tables by making each point in a basketball game worth 7 points (or 8 or 9). Ask your kids to make change at the drive-thru. Show your child how to go to Cool Math to play math games. Make up math word problems in the car and at the dinner table.

3. Get Outside and Play

The Research

Intense physical activity programs have positive effects on academic achievement, including increased concentration; improved mathematics, reading, and writing test scores; and reduced disruptive behavior (Journal of School Health 1997).

Suggestions

Find ways to ensure your child is active for 60 minutes each day. Have him or her walk the neighbor’s dog, go swimming, play badminton or soccer, take walks, or go for family bike rides. Look for safe, fun ways to play outside together year-round. Go to Family Corner Magazine and PBS Parents for more ideas.

4. Write Every Week

The Research

More freshmen entering degree-granting postsecondary institutions take remedial writing courses than take remedial reading courses (NCES 2003).

Suggestions

Ask your child to write a weekly letter to his or her grandparents, relatives, or friends. Encourage him to keep a summer journal. Have her write the family’s grocery list. Organize a secret pal writing project for adults and kids at your church or in your community.

5. Do a Good Deed

The Research

Students learn better and “act out” less when they engage in activities to aid in their social-emotional development, such as community service (The Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning, 2004).

Suggestions

Encourage your child to help out neighbors or friends. He or she can volunteer with a local group or complete a service learning project. Suggest that your child set aside part of his allowance for charity. Look at Nickelodeon’s Big Help web site together for more ideas.

Adapted from a presentation by Brenda McLaughlin, Director of Research and Policy, Center for Summer Learning, Johns Hopkins University and Jane Voorhees Sharp, Office of Early Care and Education, New Jersey Department of Human Services.

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“Perfect American English”

Posted by bububooks on July 5, 2009

From The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan:

Cover of the first edition

Cover of the first edition

          “The old woman remembered a swan she had bought many years ago in Shanghai for a foolish sum.  This bird, boasted the market vendor, was once a duck that stretched its neck in hopes of becoming a goose, and now look!—it is too beautiful to eat.

            Then the woman and the swan sailed across an ocean many thousands of li wide, stretching their necks toward America.  On her journey she cooed the swan: ‘In America I will have a daughter just like me.  But over there nobody will say her worth is measured by the loudness of her husband’s belch.  Over there nobody will look down on her, because I will make her speak only perfect American English.  And over there she will always be too full to swallow any sorrow!  She will know my meaning, because I will give her this swan—a creature that became more than what was hoped for.’

            But when she arrived in the new country, the immigration officials pulled her swan away from her, leaving the woman fluttering her arms and with only one swan feather for a memory.  And then she had to fill out so many forms she forgot why she had come and what she had left behind.

            Now the woman was old.  And she had a daughter who grew up speaking only English and swallowing more Coca-Cola than sorrow.  For a long time now the woman had wanted to give her daughter the single swan feather and tell her, ‘This feather may look worthless, but it comes from afar and carries with it all my good intentions.’  And she waited, year after year, for the day she could tell her daughter this in perfect American English.”

 

This story moves me every time.  The woman gave her daughter a better life in America than she could in China, yet something was also lost.  When would the daughter be able to understand her mother’s intentions or even her mother’s story? 

Last week, I met up with a friend from undergrad.  She and I are both half Korean, half white.  We shared stories about our mothers’ backgrounds in Korea, how our parents met, the paths they traveled to get to the U.S., our mothers’ antics as well as when we finally began to understand some of those antics.  I enjoyed our conversation and, of course, learned more about myself and my mother in the process.      

I am proud to be an American.  I’m also proud to be an American of mixed heritage.  I enjoy my life here and know I could not have had it any better in Korea.  Sometimes, though, I wish I could speak to my mom’s family.  I wish I could better understand where my mom is coming from, her point of view, her intentions.  I know that will probably never happen.  And I know that my future children will lose a lot of their Korean heritage as well.  

But what we can salvage will be worth it.  Happy Fourth of July America!

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