bububooks

Helping children develop their American and native cultural identities together.

Posts Tagged ‘bilingual homes’

You Can Lead a Child to Books…

Posted by bububooks on March 6, 2010

Language Magazine’s Editorial in the January 2010 issue focused on the importance of enjoying reading in order to develop literacy skills.  I really liked the editor’s viewpoint and got permission to reprint the article here for you.  If you’d like more information on or to subscribe to Language Magazine: The Journal of Communication and Education, please visit their website, www.languagemagazine.com.

Language and literacy are the tools with which knowledge is built.  Without their acquisition, no child has the chance to become an astronaut, a scientist, a doctor, a movie star, or even a musician.  Without aspirations, children cannot flourish and life loses some of its magic.  Yet, we continue to deny so many of our children the opportunity to develop their own language and literacy skills by refusing them access to books that are suitable for them and might even excite them.
According to a newly released study (see News, p. 10 by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), in more than 90 percent of school libraries, books in languages other than English account for less than five percent of the collection and, in nearly 60 percent of school libraries, they account for less than one percent. While nearly 14 percent of responding schools reported that at least 25 percent of their students were English Language Learners (ELLs) and a quarter of all respondents rated free-choice reading as the most effective ELL initiative.
Now, I can already hear the English-only brigade proclaiming that all books in school libraries in America should be in English because that’s the language spoken here, but even the most hardened English-only advocate must appreciate that children will never become literate in any language if they don’t enjoy reading. And reading in a second language is hard work at first —imagine being obliged to pick up War and Peace every night for your bedtime read.
Librarians consider “school-wide reading initiatives that encourage free choice reading” to be the most effective teaching strategy for ELLs. Many teachers and experts agree (see Opinion, p.26). Restocking our school and public libraries with books that will interest today’s kids is a relatively low cost policy with no drawbacks and an enormous upside. Not only is it a long term investment which will serve children for many years to come, but, for those who are counting, nearly all the money will end up with American publishers (yes, there are many American publishers of books in languages other than English) so the investment will satisfy stimulus package requirements.
Britain’s Cambridge University recently released the results of a three-year study (see News p.11) into elementary education, which warns “that prescribed pedagogy combined with high stakes testing and the national curriculum amounted to a ‘state theory of learning.’ Prepackaged, government approved lessons are not good for a democracy, nor for children’s education…Pupils do not learn to think for themselves if their teachers are expected to do as they are told.” This completely contradicts the blindly accepted notion that more standards and testing make better schools —the basis for the federal education funding.
Another $250 million was allocated to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teaching earlier this month. About the same amount of funding would buy an appropriate library book for every child in public school across the nation. Instead of pinning all its hopes of school reform success on standards, assessment, and incentive schemes, the government, like all wise investors, should spread its bets.

Daniel Ward, Editor

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Repost of an excellent article on bilingual children, the benefits for children, challenges for parents and tips for success

Posted by bububooks on March 2, 2010

We’ve already shared this article on Facebook and Twitter, but we love it so much we decided to post it here too!  You can find the original article at: www.northjersey.com

Raising multilingual children
Monday, March 1, 2010
BY KATHRYN DAVIS
THE PARENT PAPER

We live in a multilingual world. It is not uncommon to walk down the street in any U.S. city and hear several different languages being spoken. Around the world, children are learning English as a second language at a very young age, enabling them to develop the skills necessary to interact with people all over the globe. There is no doubt about the benefits of being able to communicate in more than one language. Such ability offers the opportunity for independence, whether for business, education, leisure or travel.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 10 million children between the ages of 5 and 17, or about 20 percent of children over 5, already speak a language other than English at home. Experts are citing more and more evidence of the benefits of multilingual development from an early age. While there has been some suggestion that learning a second language can delay speech acquisition and language development, research demonstrates otherwise.

More and more parents are seeking to provide their children with the advantages that bilingualism offers. That goal leads to some basic questions. When does language acquisition start? When and how should children begin learning a second language?

The basics

The young mind, particularly in infancy, is malleable. In the first few months, crying, whimpering and cooing are the primary forms of communication. Soon a baby starts to distinguish individual sounds and will begin to mimic those sounds or syllables. He will learn to distinguish between “ma” and “da” and will start to babble.

Vocalization is a baby’s way of entertaining himself, but it is also how he discovers ways to use his mouth, his tongue and vocal chords to make sounds. At one point, his speech may sound almost as though he is making sense. This is because his tones and patterns are based on the language he hears around him. Eventually, these babblings will develop into individual words that will facilitate true communication. The individual phonemes, or words sounds, that develop are primarily based on the language spoken in the home. Young children who hear more than one language develop additional sounds and, eventually, additional words that represent concepts, objects or people.

Programs that teach infants sign language have claimed to help babies as young as 10 months to communicate, before they are able to articulate with words. Experts say learning to communicate through a second language, even sign language, can be beneficial to cognitive development. However, raising a bilingual child requires a commitment of consistency in the long-term.

In her article, “Two or More Languages in Early Childhood: Some General Points and Practical Recommendations,” Annick De Houwer of the University of Antwerp and Science Foundation in Flanders, Belgium says, “A prevailing idea is that it is very easy for children to learn a new language and that hardly any effort is involved. However, learning language, even one, is a process that takes many years.”

While it is true that language acquisition is easier when it is done at a young age, it is the opportunities to hear and use a language consistently over time that brings success. De Houwer points out, “Languages are very complex. To learn all their complexities, one needs a lot of life experience…The environment plays an important role in learning to speak. Children learn to speak only when they hear people talk to them in many different circumstances.”

Pros and cons

Is there a downside to bilingualism? Not so many years ago, the prevailing wisdom was that children who learn to speak two languages tended to confuse the two, interchanging words from both languages in their speech, even within the same sentence. However, studies have shown otherwise.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia and Ottawa studied infants to find out whether the demand of acquiring more sounds and words leads to differences in language development. The experiment involved repeatedly presenting two different objects labeled as “bih” and “dih.” In every group tested, the bilingual infants noticed the change in the object’s name at a later age (20 months vs. 17 months) than the monolingual babies. While this may seem like the monolingual infants were more successful, the researchers theorized that the bilingual infants were focusing more on making a connection between objects and words, rather than just attending to details of sound.

Another study of 40 7-month-old babies by The Language, Cognition, and Development Lab at the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy also suggests exposure to more than one language at an early age has benefits. Half of the babies in this study came from homes where two different languages were spoken. The experiment involved using a computer where characters were displayed on one of two screens just after word-like sounds were played. Researchers tested the babies’ ability to anticipate upon which screen a character would appear based on various sounds. Only the babies from the bilingual homes were able to use the newly learned sounds to predict where the cartoon would appear. The author of the study, Jacques Mehler, points out that this skill can apply to more than just the ability to switch between languages.

Experts say babies raised in a bilingual environment may exhibit some slight delays in speech development, but that delay is only temporary. Overall, the benefits can be far-reaching.

According to Carey Myles, author of Raising Bilingual Children, “Bilingual language skills have also been correlated with improved cognitive performance in children. According to the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, D.C., bilinguals take a more creative approach to problem-solving, read earlier on average than their monolingual peers, and score higher on standardized tests like the SAT.”

Beyond the obvious benefits of a second language, Myles points out, “…language is a powerful factor in shaping a child’s identity. When children in bilingual families understand the culture of each parent, family bonds are strengthened.”

Giving children fluency in more than one language is possible, but it is not simple. Parents should have realistic expectations about the process and results of raising a bilingual child. “Even parents able to spend every summer in the ‘home country’ or to enroll their children in language immersion programs at school may find that their children’s language proficiency is not exactly the same in each language,” Myles notes. “The good news is that this is completely normal and what most adult bilinguals typically experience, too.”

Methods of instruction

Families wishing to promote their child’s second language acquisition have options. One parent, one language, (OPOL) is one method in which each parent speaks only one language. In this way, the child learns to distinguish between the two languages. Another method is the “home language approach.” Here the family speaks one language inside the home, while the child acquires the community’s language outside the home. A third option is immersion, often done through a formal program.

“I think there are probably as many ways as there are families,” says Myles. “Parents should consider their situation and what resources they have to support their minority language. I don’t think one can say a certain method is better than others; although I don’t think artificial schedules, like French at dinnertime, really work.”

There are drawbacks to any method. Myles points out that when only one parent is providing exposure to a second language, “it can be hard on that parent. With limited exposure to the minority language, children are naturally stronger in the majority language. It is not uncommon for a parent in that situation to give up using the minority language exclusively with the children, in favor of better communication.”

Some parents turn to immersion programs through formal education at schools like the French Academy of Bergen County. “At 2 years old, 90 percent of the curriculum is taught in French,” explains Executive Director Anne-Sophie Gueguen. “As the children get older, the number of hours taught in English slowly increases.”

By the time children are in fourth grade, Gueguen says they receive equal teaching in both French and English. “The ultimate goal at FABC is to raise children equally in both languages.”

Gueguen understands the advantages of speaking two languages, citing skills many do not usually associate with language. “The intellectual stimulation involved in learning two languages, knowing two words for one meaning, reinforces abstraction and problem solving skills. The benefits of this stimulation are remarkable in math.”

Another way children often “pick up” a second language is referred to as “receptive bilingualism.” In this case, children understand the minority language spoken at home, but do not speak it. “This kind of bilingualism is more common than people realize in the United States,” says Myles. There are ways in which parents can encourage children to speak their second language. Sometimes parents tell their children that the grandparents do not understand English. “Some parents simply don’t respond until rebellious older children use the appropriate language,” Myles explains.

No matter which method parents use, reading books is an excellent means of supporting language acquisition. Early language development depends on vocabulary development. Parents can take advantage of this time spent reading with their children to encourage vocabulary growth in both languages. In fact, any time parents read with their children, the benefits are extensive and it is never too soon to begin this practice.

Though most children who grow up with two languages do so because they live in bilingual homes, there are an increasing number of parents who make the choice of bilingualism for their children. The advantages of a second language are clear, and that’s the same in any language.

Posted in Raising bilingual children | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

You’re Not Alone at Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism

Posted by bububooks on February 26, 2010

Hi everyone,

We at bububooks are happy to be a part of this month’s Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism again.  Check out the 14 blog posts with a central theme called, We’re Not Alone, over at SpanglishBaby.

I’ve copied some of the themes here, but be sure to head over to SpanglishBaby to enjoy the whole carnival.  Know that you’re not alone in trying to raised your children to be bilingual–meet the others at the carnival, read their stories and share your own!

–How to approach bilingualism once your children are about to become adolescents.
–An excellent topic which we don’t really cover much.
–Fun ways to introduce language into everyday activities from the mouth of an expert: a mom and an educator.
–Music is not only a fun way to teach Spanish, but real important to reinforce the minority language.
–An interesting look at a topic that has always interested me: what happens when you’re raising bilingual siblings.
–Funny, funny, funny story about the joys of bilingualism.
–Another honest look at the difficulties of raising bilingual children but from the point of view of a mom using her second language.

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Family Literacy Project Fundraiser a wild success!

Posted by bububooks on February 10, 2010

In November, we at bububooks decided to sponsor a poet, Jacey, for the 30 Poems in 30 Days Project.  The organizer, Northampton poet laureate Lesléa Newman, set a goal to raise $3,000 to help the Center for New Americans (CNA), a non-profit community-based education and resource center for immigrants, refugees, and other limited English speakers in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts. The organization offers free English classes, free literacy classes, free child care for students, family literacy, and many other services.

Jacey wrote 30 poems, one each day from Nov. 1 – 30, 2009.  She has graciously provided us with one to post here (and I like it a lot!).  The 30 Poems in 30 Days fundraiser raised $12,040.50, wildly beating Newman’s goal.  We were glad and are proud to have contributed to this noble cause.  Below Jacey’s poem, check out the press release for more details on CNA and the 30 Poems in 30 Days project.

Congratulations Jacey and thank you for letting us be a part of this project!

———————————————————–

This Lady, June Baby

Jacey Blue

Daddy found my name lint-thick
in the front pocket of his Wranglers.
Faded blue, classic cut, dusty as hell,
stacked over his life-worn Ropers.

Hands rummage past pocket watch.
Dig down deep for decent quarters
to buy a Pepsi to pass the time,
while I was being born.

It was sweaty hot and Mama,
was a hellcat, yelling about snap peas,
pushing and waiting, cursing,
crying for it to end and me to begin.

Daddy just wanted some cold,
fast break from that dirty heat.
Uncovered four 1980 quarters,
his wedding band, my me.

Doc shook his cornhusker
hands.  Daddy just smiled then.
Held me slow, said:  Blue.
You’ll be my June girl.

–Jacey Blue


———————————————————–

30 Poems in 30 Days Project Raises More Than $11,000 for the Center for New Americans Family Literacy Project

This past November, Northampton poet laureate Lesléa Newman issued a challenge to the poets of the Pioneer Valley: Write 30 poems in 30 days and find sponsors to pledge a dollar amount per poem to raise money for literacy. Not only was the challenge met, but it exceeded Newman’s wildest dreams.

“About 75 poets participated in the project,” Newman said. “Most of them were from the Pioneer Valley, but there were also poets from Georgia, Louisiana, Illinois and Colorado. Poets got very excited about both the challenge of writing a poem a day, and the opportunity to use poetry to raise money for literacy.”

Newman, who wrote a poem a day and raised about $700 on her own, hosted a reading and celebration of the project at the Forbes Library on December 2nd. About 45 poets read to an audience of 100 people. “It was very exciting,” she said. “There were several poets there reading to a live audience for the first time, there were poets who had published books and won awards, and there was everyone inbetween. Every poet and poem was greeted with wild enthusiasm.”

Jim Ayres, the Executive Director of the Center for New Americans, which serves families and individuals from more than fifty countries who together speak over thirty-five languages, is thrilled about the success of the project. “We are all touched by the number of writers and sponsors who stepped up to meet Lesléa’s challenge. The valley is very fortunate to have such a talented, engaged, and generous literary community,” Ayres said. “The donations raised will allow us to expand our early childhood staffing so as to increase the number of families who can benefit from the family literacy project.” The project  offers free English classes, free literacy classes, and many other services.

The Northampton Arts Council fully funds and supports the poet laureate position.  The “30 Poems in 30 Days” challenge was Newman’s final project as poet laureate. During her two-year term which concludes at the end of this year, Newman hosted a “Lunch with the Laureate” series, distributed poetry books to waiting rooms as part of her “Poetry to Wait By” project, initiated the Paradise Poetry Prize, and edited a bi-weekly column for the Daily Hampshire Gazette called “Here a Poet, There a Poet” which will be published in book form next year, funded in part by a grant from the Northampton Arts Council. Newman says she will definitely miss being poet laureate. “I met so many fabulous poets and poetry-lovers,” she said. “It was a fantastic opportunity. One of the highlights of my writing career.” As for the future, Newman plans on remaining an active member of the poetry community, while turning her attention to her own writing. “After all,” she laughed, “I’ve got drafts of thirty new poems to rewrite.”

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NAEYC Themes, Part 6: Research, Facts and Things to Know about Dual Language Learners

Posted by bububooks on January 25, 2010

In the last (a short and sweet one!) of our blog series on common themes from the 2009 NAEYC’s annual conference, we present a hodge-podge of facts we gathered throughout that week in D.C.  Enjoy!

–Language acquisition depends not only on adequate hearing, the ability to differentiate sounds, and the capacity to link meaning to specific words, but also on the ability to concentrate, pay attention, and engage in meaningful social interaction.

–Learning a second language and learning to read are complex tasks influenced by cognitive, environmental and social factors.

–Bilingual Children
-Exhibit the same language milestones as monolingual children
-May acquire language at a slower rate and have more limited total vocabularies in each language
-Have a combined vocabulary in both languages likely to equal or exceed that of a child who speaks one language

–Preschoolers actively listen to and separate out two languages.  So we can use both languages interchangeably.

–Development of language and literacy in the home language (or first language) facilitates development of language and literacy in the second language and cognitive development.  Academic language ability takes 5-7 years.  Social language ability (i.e. Hello, how are you?) is easy to accomplish.

–For more current guidance, check out:
-Head Start Performance Standards and Head Start Dual Language Report (2008)
-Tabors, Patton O. One Child, Two Languages: Children Learning English as a Second Language. Paul H. Brookes Publishing, 2008.
-Igao, Cristina. The Inner World of the Immigrant Child. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 1995.
-Espinosa, Linda. Getting it RIGHT for Young Children from Diverse Backgrounds: Applying Research to Improve Practice. Prentice Hall, 2009.

Check out below for the sources of this blog:

1) Using standards-based curriculum to support language and literacy development for English-language learners.

Presented by:
Min-hua Chen, Education Specialist, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education;
Vicky Milstein, Principal of Early Education, Brookline Public Schools;
Min-Jen Wu Taylor, Pre-K Teacher, Brookline Public Schools;
James StClair, Kindergarten Teacher, Cambridge Public Schools;
Sandra Christison, Kindergarten Teacher, Boston Public Schools.

They haven’t posted their slides yet, but if they do, you can find it here.

2) Home Language or English?  Implementing program policies and teaching strategies that meet the needs of dual-language learners

Presented by:
John Gunnarson, Napa Valley College.

Click here for his handout.

3) Getting it right for young children from diverse backgrounds: Applying research to improve practice

Presented by:
Dr Linda Espinosa, University of Missouri-Columbia.

She hasn’t posted her slides yet, but if she does, you can find it here.

Previous Blogs under the NAEYC Annual Conference Theme:
Part 1:  NAEYC Themes, Part 1: Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan’s Presentation
Part 2:  NAEYC Themes, Part 2: Build Positive Relationships with Dual-Language Learning Children
Part 3:  Common Theme #2:  Develop meaningful relationships with parents and families
Part 4:  Common Theme #3:  Communication strategies
Part 5:  Common Theme #4:  Support the home language and culture

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NAEYC Themes, Part 4: Communication Strategies for Working with Dual Language Learners

Posted by bububooks on January 5, 2010

Another common theme that surfaced at the National Association for the Education of Young Children Annual Conference dealt with plans and strategies for working with dual language learners.  This blog posting provides some tips you can actually use, along with recommendations on how to create a more explicit strategy.

Strategy

Regardless of what you choose to do, the key is to be deliberate, intentional and integrative in your strategy.  Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  Create an explicit plan to integrate the needs of your dual language learners with the overall needs of your center.  Check out these steps below to aid in developing your plan.

  1. Consider completing a self-assessment checklist to help you determine where you are in your DLL strategy.  You can access the checklist here.
  2. Find out about the current guidelines for dual language programs.
  3. Analyze your current program needs, specifically the demographic makeup of your students, staff and maybe even growing trends in your area.
  4. Develop a policy for supporting and a plan on how to support dual language learners.  Get buy-in from management, staff and parents.
  5. Pursue and offer professional development for staff who work with dual language learning children.
  6. Collaborate with other services and supporters.

General Tips

Following are 10 tips for communicating with DLLs. Remember to develop a relationship with the child and their family (see Themes, Parts 2 and 3) in order to maximize that child’s potential.  From birth to age 3, children need face-to-face social interaction for language development.  DVDs do not work.

  1. Pair visual tools with oral and print cues.  For example, if you display the daily schedule in printed words (English), place visual pictures of the activities next to their corresponding words.  You can combine these cues in everything you do.  For example, use pictures, gestures and movements when talking to maximize all the cues.

For new language learners:

2. Simplify your language and slow down.
3. Do not assume that a child understands what you say.
4. Do not force the child to make eye contact with you.
5. Do not raise your volume when speaking or force the child to speak.
6. Allow plenty of time for the child to answer a question or wait a bit and then rephrase the question in simpler language.

A little later:

7. Listen for intent not grammar.
8. Accept all attempts.
9. Don’t overcorrect.
10. Never ask a child to say something in English. Let it be spontaneous.

Actual Tactics

Below are some tactics that other centers have used and that I found interesting.

  1. Create a bilingual book with the photo and name of every student in your center.  This book helps all the students—and even parents—get to know the names, including unfamiliar and foreign, of everyone else.
  2. If you have more than two languages in your center, consider using a word wall.  For example, display the word, hello, in every language represented (along with its Romanized pronunciation if it’s not a language with a Latin alphabet).  Also, during morning meeting, have the class say hello or good morning in each language represented in your class.
  3. Bring family members in to share things from their country. Take a photo and post it in the classroom.
  4. If you have a listening center, offer audio books in other languages or bilingually and make them available to all students.

These are some specific tactics I picked up during NAEYC.  Feel free to include them in your strategy, but don’t let them be your only strategy!  Best wishes to you and feel free to contact us for resources in developing your plan.  Also, please share what tactics have worked for you!

Happy New Year!

Check out below for the sources of this blog:

1) Using standards-based curriculum to support language and literacy development for English-language learners.

Presented by:
Min-hua Chen, Education Specialist, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education;
Vicky Milstein, Principal of Early Education, Brookline Public Schools;
Min-Jen Wu Taylor, Pre-K Teacher, Brookline Public Schools;
James StClair, Kindergarten Teacher, Cambridge Public Schools;
Sandra Christison, Kindergarten Teacher, Boston Public Schools.

They haven’t posted their slides yet, but if they do, it will be available here.

2) Home Language or English?  Implementing program policies and teaching strategies that meet the needs of dual-language learners

Presented by:
John Gunnarson, Napa Valley College.

Click here for his handout.

3) Getting it right for young children from diverse backgrounds: Applying research to improve practice

Presented by:
Dr Linda Espinosa, University of Missouri-Columbia.

She hasn’t posted her slides yet, but if she does, they will be available here.

4) Supporting dual-language learners: Identifying strategies for implementing an effective program for a diverse population

Presented by:
Susan Goettl, Fairfax County Office for Children Head Start Program.

She hasn’t posted her slides yet, but if she does, they will be available here.

Upcoming Blogs under the NAEYC Annual Conference Theme:
Part 5:  Common Theme #4:  Support the home language and culture
Part 6:  Research, Facts and Things to Know about Dual Language Learners

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NAEYC Themes, Part 3: 10 Ways to Develop Meaningful Relationships with the Parents and Families of Dual-Language Learning Children

Posted by bububooks on December 28, 2009

Another theme that presented itself throughout various sessions at this year’s annual National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) conference the need for developing and maintaining a relationship with the parents and families of non-native English speakers.  You might think this concept is rather obvious; however, several barriers exist to prevent this relationship from blooming.

Barriers

Oftentimes, there is a perception that these parents lack interest in their child’s education and growth.  However, this perception can often be misguided.  In many cultures outside the United States, teachers are revered and getting involved in the classroom is seen as interfering with the teacher’s expert intentions and processes.  Therefore, parents try to stay out of the way of their children’s teachers.  You see that as lack of interest and involvement; they see it as respect.

Also, the notion of family involvement differs for social classes.  Just because a parent is not at a bake sale doesn’t mean they are not involved in their child’s education.  Work may prevent them from attending; however, they may still be reviewing their child’s homework every night.

Immigrant families also face unique needs than other families in America.  Not only may there be a language and culture barrier, but also family tensions can exist as each member adjusts and adapts to their new life in America.  Their identities as a member of a group before may have now changed to one of an outsider—an “alien”.  Perhaps they were a leader in their hometown and now they are a laborer trying to climb the socio-economic ladder.  Further, they may have to rely on their children as their English improves more quickly, which degrades their role as provider in the family.  These adjustments can cause tension in the family that may prevent as much involvement as they’d like in their child’s education.  Think about the time you studied abroad in college.  Imagine moving there by yourself, without the school’s help, without your host family there to meet you at the airport.  Imagine trying to figure everything out on your own, in a foreign country with a language you thought you could speak. Imagine doing so with your family there too, all looking to you for guidance.  Do you think you could have done it? Perhaps, but with a whole lot of stress involved, too!

For instance, what do the following symbols mean to you (assuming you don’t speak Chinese)? 优, 良, 中, 可,  差。If your child brought home these symbols on their report card, would you know what they mean?  One presenter at NAEYC told a story of how a Chinese father was disappointed in his daughter because she brought home a grade of “S” (for Satisfactory).  He thought grades went in order from A all the way down to Z—because it does seem that way since it starts off A, B, C, D…—and so S seemed pretty bad.  We must remember that nearly everything may be unfamiliar to immigrant families!

The Importance of Developing this Relationship with the Family

The school or childcare center is a key location in cultural transition.  This place may often be the first place children are exposed to cultures other than their own (this goes for all children).  It may be the first place a child realizes he is “different.”  Further, it is the place that will help prepare him to succeed in America.   If there is not enough language support for her to learn, she will associate school as something that doesn’t do anything for her.

Parent involvement is a critical component in a child’s success in school and in society.  We must do what we can to remember that inability to communicate does not mean a person is incapable or uneducated.  In fact, new legal immigrants are as well educated as native-born citizens, on average.  We must discover and overcome whatever may be preventing a relationship with the parents and families and work to ensure they and their children can get the most out of their experience within the American education system.

Immigrant families come to the US for a variety of reasons.  They range from political (refugees facing violence or persecution in their home country) to economic to socio-cultural (i.e. female activists in a Muslim country) to educational.  The fact that they have arrived (remember the difficulty of such an action by thinking back to your study abroad days) shows that they can set a goal and achieve it.  Also, remember that bilingualism is a gift we should not throw away!

What to Do

Remove your preconceptions as I have tried to do here by pointing out examples like studying abroad and different grading systems.  Think about why the families in your center have come to the US.  They may not be willing or able to share right away, but just consider what the possibilities may be.  Think about the type of life they may have led before moving here. Remember, they’ve already demonstrated their ability and willingness to set a goal and achieve it.  Try to find out where the children are coming from.  Get to know their families and culture, patterns of interaction and emotional expression.  Learn from parents and others from the child’s home about their culture.  The children can be the connectors (just remember not to rely on them for translation).  Family support has shown to be crucial in a successful transition.  Remember, it may not just be the parents involved.  Some cultures involve the whole family in child rearing.  You may need to talk to an aunt or a grandmother, etc.

You’ll want to communicate to the parents that they need to speak their home language in rich context and with complex words.  Otherwise, their child’s home language and overall cognitive abilities may be stunted. Remember, learning to read and speak transcends language.  It’s okay—and recommended—that parents maintain their home language.  Thus, collaborate with parents on the importance of developing their child’s verbal skills and thinking in their home language.  Finally, use community collaborators, i.e. parents, community visitors, administrators, consultants and therapists, to help bridge the cultural and language gap between you, your staff and the parents.

85% of teachers in America are white, female and middle class.  Yet, 1 in 5 children in the US are from immigrant families.  On top of that, 25% of the US population is children.  Teachers (everyone) use their own cultural lens to define individual children.  It is almost certain a cultural and language divide will exist!

10 Ways to Develop a Relationship with Parents and Family Members

As discussed in NAEYC themes, Part 2, staff members should model acceptance, respect of and interest in the child’s home culture.  You should first start there and then work to include family members.  Following are some specific tactics other centers have used successfully or that researchers recommend.

1)   Get the parents and children to read together in the classroom.  One center called this “Cuddle up and read”.  During drop-off time, parents sit with their children and read a story in their home language.  Thus, keep books in their home language available in your center.

2)   Schedule readings where family members come in and read a story from their home country to the class. It’s okay if it’s not in English, children will grasp the story if it’s simple enough.  Take a picture of the event and post it in the classroom with other photos of events.

3)   Involve parents and other teachers in selecting literature.  One center shared a story where a child had become withdrawn because she did not see herself as pretty—none of the “pretty” characters in their storybooks looked like her.  Then they read a story in which the main character was the same ethnicity as the child.  The definition of “pretty” changed for all the girls to include other ethnicities.  This child re-engaged and the others wanted to look like this new character also.  A parent had given this book to the center.

Including such books also helps the other parents to understand what’s going on. For example, one center had an autistic child who brushed his skin as part of his “sensory diet”.  When a parent asks their child what they did in school that day, they’ll surely be confused with the child replies, “we helped so-and-so brush.” Parent: ”You mean you helped him brush his hair?” Child: “no, his skin.” The parent may begin to wonder what you are teaching their child! But if the child brings home a book on autistic children, the parents will learn that brushing skin is a therapeutic protocol for autistic children. Such books can help other parents to also model respect and acceptance of others.

4)   Here are some preparatory things teachers have done to foster parent involvement:

  1. Attend ESL conferences at local universities
  2. Participate in community activities celebrating linguistic and cultural diversity
  3. Network with other teachers
  4. Attend intercultural workshops & family/school partnership workshops
  5. Participate in multicultural leadership and heritage language workshops
  6. Participate in international travel to visit schools in other countries

5)   Develop intentional strategies and set goals for engaging the families.

6)   Understand you have a multi-faceted role as a good listener, a mediator between cultures, a source of information for community resources, a facilitator of a supportive classroom, a teacher and an advocate.

7)   Learn about home cultures through local organizations, societies and international offices and student organizations at your university.  Start by searching the internet, too!  Don’t let it be overwhelming, even knowing a little bit will go a long way toward developing a relationship with the parents.

8)   Visit the child’s home and neighborhood.  Observe and talk to them in class to learn more.

9)   Present seminars explaining the school system (with translation services). NEVER rely on the child to translate. It places unnecessary responsibility on their shoulders.  If you can’t afford a professional translator, tap into the foreign language department at your local university. Provide translated handouts.

10) Actively invite parents to meetings and events.  Meet with them regularly and with translation services provided.  Remember, their notions of involvement may differ from yours.  You cannot develop a relationship with them without meeting them.

I know this may seem like a lot to do.  Just remember that as with all children, it is important for you to develop a relationship with the parents.  For non-native speaking English parents, this will require a little more work on your part, but the impact will be immeasurable!

Thank you for reading this far.  Check out below for the sources of this blog:

1. Using standards-based curriculum to support language and literacy development for English-language learners.

Presented by:
Min-hua Chen, Education Specialist, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education;
Vicky Milstein, Principal of Early Education, Brookline Public Schools;
Min-Jen Wu Taylor, Pre-K Teacher, Brookline Public Schools;
James StClair, Kindergarten Teacher, Cambridge Public Schools;
Sandra Christison, Kindergarten Teacher, Boston Public Schools.

They haven’t posted their slides yet, but if they do, it will show up when you click here.

2. The role of play in cultural transition: When the culture of the home differs from the mainstream culture of the school

Presented by:
Leah Adams, Eastern Michigan University
Mary E. Earick, Plymouth State University

They haven’t posted their slides yet, but if they do, it will show up when you click here.

3. Home Language or English?  Implementing program policies and teaching strategies that meet the needs of dual-language learners

Presented by:
John Gunnarson, Napa Valley College.

Click here for his handout.

4. Multicultural programs: Enriching families, supporting children

Presented by:
Rosene Johnson, Michigan State University.

She hasn’t posted her slides yet, but if she does, it will show up when you click here.

5. Taking the pulse of the policies and programs that matter to Latino children and families

Presented by:
Luis A. Hernandez, Training and Technical Assistance Services—Western Kentucky University

He hasn’t posted his slides yet, but if he does, it will show up when you click here.

6. Working with families who have recently immigrated: What teachers need to know and be able to do

Presented by:
Eun Kyeong Cho, University of New Hampshire

She hasn’t posted her slides yet, but if she does, it will show up when you click here.

7. A multicultural show and tell: Exploring children’s literature through culturally responsive teaching

Presented by:
Sherri Weber, Canisius College
Susan G. Popplewell, University of Central Oklahoma

They haven’t posted their slides yet, but if they do, it will show up when you click here.

8. Igoa, Cristina. The Inner World of the Immigrant Child. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 1995.

9. Hernandez, Reyna. Transforming Early Learning: Education Equity for Young Latinos. Latino Policy Forum, March 2009.

Upcoming Blogs under the NAEYC Annual Conference Theme:
Part 4:  Common Theme #3:  Communication strategies
Part 5:  Common Theme #4:  Support the home language and culture
Part 6:  Research, Facts and Things to Know about Dual Language Learners

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Book Review: Iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems/Iguanas en la nieve y otros poemas de invierno by Francisco X. Alarcón

Posted by bububooks on December 14, 2009

book coverIguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems/Iguanas en la nieve y otros poemas de invierno is an absolute delight.  Parents, do not be intimidated by the word poem in the title!  What Francisco X. Alarcón gives us with this picture book is an introduction to image. The poems, short and simple, will teach your children to grow with an acute appetite for sensory details.  This collection, like the others in its series, is very visual and while it explores much associated with winter it also touches on many important themes our children face each day such as identity, community and cultural awareness.

The illustrations, by Maya Christina Gonzalez, are vivid and play a large role in the overall joy that is found in this book.  Gonzalez does an excellent job complimenting each poem and her artwork is colorful and alive.

Suited perfectly for children in grades 3-5, this book will help children begin to build their creative process using small detail.  Because the poems are observations, young readers will be able to identify similar visual details during their own day-to-day experiences.  While in nature, walking to school, or even while spending time with family at home, they may begin to notice detail in a new way, an important skill for all children.  This book, and the others in this seasonal series provide an excellent tool for building sensory skills.

Furthermore, if your child is a young student of Spanish, this book is effective in isolating a few words at a time, so the Spanish does not become overwhelming.  Because the poems are short, they can be broken up into daily lessons.  It is a perfect and joyful book for any age to read.

–Jacey

For this book and the others in its series (Spring, Summer and Fall), click here.  Get it in time for Christmas!

We wanted to share with you one of Jacey’s favorite poems from the book, perfect for the season! Happy Holidays!

Nochebuena                                            Christmas Eve

me encanta                                              I love
el sabroso                                                the delicious
olor                                                            aroma

de tamales                                               of tamales
cociéndose                                              simmering
al vapor                                                    in their steam

toda mi familia                                      my family
a mi alrededor                                        all around me
cantando                                                 singing

las alegres                                              the joyful
canciones de                                          songs of
Las Posadas                                          Las Posadas

todos                                                       everybody
ansiosos                                                eagerly
esperando                                              awaiting

ese ruido                                                that very
de papel                                                 special
tan especial                                          paper noise

que hacen                                             gifts make
los regalos                                           when we
al abrirlos                                             unwrap them

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Themes from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Annual Conference

Posted by bububooks on December 1, 2009

I attended the annual NAEYC conference just before Thanksgiving in Washington D.C.  I learned a lot more about the strategies, techniques and trends for teaching dual language learners.  I also got to see some friends and make some new ones who are involved in early education.  Moreover, I got to see Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speak live!  Over the next few blog postings, I’ll be recapping some of the presentations I attended.  For this particular posting, I’d like to discuss four overarching themes that seemed to repeat throughout the various sessions.  I will expand on these themes through the specific postings that will follow.

Common Theme #1:  Teachers need to build positive relationships with dual language learning children.  Help them to feel safe and included. Oftentimes, every single thing is new to them since they have just moved here.  Even their parents are stressed as they try to get settled in a new country.  With everything so new and different (read: scary), a safe and inviting environment will help them to open up more in school.

Common Theme #2:  Teachers need to develop meaningful relationships with parents and families.  Parents and families from different countries display their involvement with their children’s education in various ways. Also, sometimes their current circumstances prevent them from being as involved as they’d like.  This does not mean they are not interested.  Furthermore, language need not be a barrier for a teacher to communicate with the families.  These meaningful relationships help to eliminate misunderstandings and further create a safe environment for the child.

Common Theme #3:  Be deliberate, intentional, integrative and committed with your communication strategies.  I’ll offer suggestions in following postings.  But certainly determine what your policy is for incorporating dual language learners and then set about creating a strategy to do so.  This process will include research and can even mean hiring a consultant.

Common Theme #4:  Support the home language and culture.  Dual language learning children do not come to your school as a blank slate. By supporting their home language and culture, you maximize their potential to learn, send them a message that they are not different, help create that safe and inclusive environment, and lay the foundation for a strong relationship between them and their parents.

I look forward to sharing with you specific details from the sessions as well as expanding upon these four themes.  In the meantime, Happy Holidays and don’t forget to check out our bookstore, where all the books are bilingual: www.bububooks.com.

–Laura

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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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