Friday, May 9, 2014

FREE multilingual texts! (and it's not too good to be true!)

Have you ever heard these statements?

I'd love to get some books for my ELLs in their home languages, but I don't have any funds to purchase them.

Do you know where I could find childrens' books in Tamil?  Somali?  Vietnamese?

I know I can get some books in Spanish, but it wouldn't be fair to the other students who have different home languages and won't have those resources.

It's fine if the families want to read to their child in their native language, but they should really be using English to help them succeed.

As an ESL teacher and leader, I have heard variations on all of the above many times in my career.  I've found that many educators are interested in providing materials to their students in their home languages but the barriers to finding and sharing those resources can be overwhelming.

I'd like to share a resource that I found while at the Celebrating Cultural Diversity conference in Toronto last week.  This conference was very inspiring with it's focus on exploring student identity in relation to culture and language.  I actually attended a session on school improvement that didn't mention testing, accountability, or "the gap."  It focused on building the social capital of the immigrant parents and students within the community in order to foster true partnership for student success between teachers and families. Educators did this through a weekly parent story-telling group, which allowed parents from diverse backgrounds to come together and share their personal stories reflecting their culture and backgrounds.   The parents discovered similarities in their experiences and felt more confident in their new community.  They wrote their stories in their native languages and English and read them to classrooms of students to help all members of the educational community understand their perspective and experiences.   This was a very powerful experience for all connected to the community.

A related resource developed in Canada is the "Dual Language Showcase" from Thornwood public school in Mississauga, Ontario.   The Dual Language Showcase is a multilingual website that showcases student writing in English and native languages.

 Here's an example written in English and Chinese:

The main webpage explains their work by saying, "The group is committed to forging a stronger home-school connection.  We believe that reading in any language, develops reading ability."   And this statement has been proven in research - as they say, "You only need to learn to read once!"  

Jim Cummins, a speaker at the conference, referred to the recent PISA 2009 report that underscored the commonality among many nations that the number one predictor of reading success is reading engagement.  "In all countries, students who enjoy reading the most perform significantly better than students who enjoy reading the least." PISA 2009 Executive Summary.   So I wasn't far off long ago when I told teachers, "Get students to love reading and they will be successful.  We always become good at what we love to do."   

If you can get multilingual resources into your students' hands they will love what they see - their own languages and cultures, as well as understanding the value in their own stories and writing.  I'll follow up in a future post on Jim Cummins work on identity texts as a way of developing your own multilingual resources in the classroom, but until then - explore the multilingual resources and share them with your students!!