Category Archives: community support

“In Plain English?” English Language Learning in the U.S.

The US is a country of many languages. In public schools, about 10 percent (4.5 million) of all kids are English Language Learners (ELLs). Of those ELLs, Spanish is the first language of about 71 percent, but there are hundreds of different languages spoken in US schools. Any one school can have a dozen or more languages spoken by its students.

Schools put different types of learning programs in place to help students transition to speaking English. One example is sheltered instruction, which combines English language development strategies with content area instruction.

American schools typically offer five categories of English language programs. The programs offered at any given school or district depend on school demographics, student characteristics, and available resources.  The US Department of Education provides resources to educators working with ELL and foreign born students, such as the Newcomer Toolkit.

Check out the graphic below to learn more about ELL learning in the US.  To find diverse children’s books in many languages to support literacy among ELLs, feel free to browse the Language Lizard website.

(Graphic included with permission from Gergich & Co.)

Multicultural Books for National Reading Month & Giveaway!

woman in a library

National Reading Month is a great time to try out a new multicultural book with your little ones! Celebrate with fun, diverse children’s books that introduce them to different cultures. And don’t miss out on the Multicultural Stories Giveaway we are co-sponsoring with our friends at I Teach K-2!

What is National Reading Month?

Every March, National Reading Month kicks off with NEA’s Read Across America, which celebrates the birthday of the beloved Dr. Seuss. All month long, organizations across the country hold events that celebrate the love of reading, and encourage kids and adults to enjoy new books or re-visit old favorites.

Our Favorite Multicultural Books for Children

If you’re looking to grow your classroom or personal library by adding great multicultural picture books the kids will love, here are some of our favorites. (Each title is available in English plus your choice of a second language, so kids get to explore a second language, too!)

Grandma’s Saturday Soup

Grandma's Saturday Soup - multicultural children's book

Each day, something new makes Mimi think of her grandma, whom she misses very much. She misses Grandma’s special Saturday Soup, and her stories of life in Jamaica. Derek Brazell’s colorful illustrations brings this story to life, and make us wish we all had a remarkable grandma like this!

Welcome to the World Baby

Welcome to the World Baby - diverse children's books

How are new babies celebrated around the world? Tariq’s classroom gets to meet his new baby brother. During circle time, the students share the different ways their families welcome new babies into the world. Na’ima bint Robert brings us a beautiful, thoughtful exploration of cultural and religious diversity through the eyes of our children.

Yum! Let’s Eat!

Yum! Let's Eat - multicultural books for preschool

This book by Thando Maclaren takes us around the world, to learn about different foods and traditions. Read about exotic dishes like fajitas, sushi, dhal, roti and more! Explore the diversity in children’s lives and develop a worldwide perspective with this book, which is part of the “Our Lives, Our World” series. Other titles in the series include Brrmm! Let’s Go! and Goal! Let’s Play!

The Wibbly Wobbly Tooth

Wibbly Wobbly Tooth - multicultural picture books

Little Li woke up on a Monday morning, only to discover that his tooth is wibbly wobbly! His tooth went wibble wobble all day, until PLOP! it fell right out. Now what will Li do with the tooth?

This humorous story by David Mills, author of Lima’s Red Hot Chilli and Mei Ling’s Hiccups, explores different cultural traditions associated with losing a tooth. It’s a great story to start a class discussion about customs and shared experiences.

Multicultural Stories Giveaway

Language Lizard is co-sponsoring a Multicultural Stories Class Library Giveaway… Enter below by April 1, 2017 for a chance to win!

Giveaway Multicultural Class Library

 

“Woman in Library” by David Niblack via imagebase.net is licensed under CC0 http://imagebase.net/photo/696/Woman-in-Library.html

5 Refugees Making America Great

There has been a lot of discussion and debate regarding refugees, with some people expressing concerns that letting in refugees will increase terrorism, while others fear that the recent proposed limitations imposed by an executive order have caused the US to lose its moral compass. In the midst of this conversation, it can be easy to forget the human faces behind the term “refugee.”

What is a refugee?

According to international refugee law, a refugee is one who seeks refuge in a foreign country because of war and violence, or out of fear of persecution in his/her country. The United States recognizes persecution “on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group” as grounds/requirement from those seeking asylum.

The person is referred to as an asylum seeker until a request for refuge has been accepted and approved. After the protection needs are recognized, he/she is officially referred to as a refugee, and enjoyes refugee status, which carries certain right and obligations, per the legislation of the receiving country.

Throughout our history, refugees from Albert Einstein to Marlene Dietrich have made a huge impact on our country and the world at large. Here, we discuss just five refugees (some names you may recognize) who are helping make America great.

Literature: Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende is a Chilean writer. She was an immigrant in the U.S, where she started writing novels that have become famous around the world as modern Latin-American classics.

When asked what gave her the drive to achieve, she answered, “Often I had no alternative but to work hard in order to survive and protect my family. I was a political exile and then an immigrant. That makes one strong.”

On September 11th, 1973, Isabel went into exile after her uncle, Salvador Allende, was detained in a military coup. After this incident, Isabel started to receive death threats and shortly found out that her name was on the military blacklist. She fled to Venezuela with her husband and two children.  Without a visa or a job, she managed to continue her career as a writer when she became a journalist for a newspaper called El Nacional.

In 1981, when Allende received news that her grandfather was about to pass away, Isabel started writing him letters, in order to feel closer to her family. This manuscript was then turned into her first and best known novel: The House of the Spirits.

Her stories were inspired by families like hers, that live in troubled times, and are caught up in the politics of the day. In 1985, Isabel went to the US as a visiting professor of literature. Today, she is involved in more than 20 organizations that provide support for refugees, and women and children who have been abused.

Sports: Luol Deng

Luol is a South Sudanese-British professional basketball player who currently plays for the Miami Heat. He was born in 1985, in the middle of the civil war in Sudan. He and his family escaped the fighting when he was young, settling first in Egypt, and later in Great Britain. He had his early education in London, and went on to study in the US before pursuing a career in professional basketball. Deng has previously played for the Chicago Bulls, and is a two-time NBA All-Star.

Entertainment: Jасkiе Chаn

Jackie Chan is known for his acrobatic fighting style on screen, his use of improvised weapons, creative stunts, and comedic timing. Chan is a star in Hong Kong, and is a refugee who has had a big impact in America’s entertainment industry. This talented actor was born in China, but moved to Australia with his family as refugees of war, fleeing the violence of the Chinese Civil War. He began his career as a stuntman, but soon became a famous actor in the US and around the world.

Fashion: Iman

The 1969 coup, and its bloody aftermath, in Somalia prompted Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid’s family to flee to Kenya. The Somali-American fashion model, actress and entrepreneur was discovered by a photographer. She began her career as a supermodel in the US, and eventually married musician David Bowie, started a cosmetics company, and became active in humanitarian causes.

Technology: Sergey Brin

Sergey Brin is a billionaire engineer and inventor, and currently the wealthiest immigrant in the US.  Born in Russia, Brin came to the US at the age of 6, when his family fled to escape anti-Semitic persecution. Brin eventually attended Stanford University to study computer science, where he met Larry Page. Together, they co-founded Google in 1998. It is now the most popular search engine used in the world. Brin is now the president of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.

Do you know of a refugee who is helping make America great? Comment below and share!

 

“AMERICA!” by Michael Dougherty is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/a15evT

Celebrate Diversity and Ease Anxiety: Suggestions For Kids & Adults

many people from above

Right now, our lives are permeated with emotionally charged discourse about political and social upheaval. When you think about how much news media, social media and personal conversations we’re exposed to, it’s very likely our kids and students are aware and possibly experiencing anxiety about what they hear and see going on in the world around them. We all may feel disheartened with the current events that are dividing us as people, and as a nation.

If you’re worried that the children in your life are experiencing stress or anxiety, you first want to acknowledge and address these emotions, as we discussed in a previous post. Then, you can try to direct the conversation to the good that is happening in the world.  One way we suggest doing this is to celebrate diversity with our children. When we open our hearts and minds to people of other cultures, we also cultivate a spirit of love and hope, which can lead to strength and healing.

Below are a few ways we can mitigate anxiety for students, your kids and yourself.

Limit Media Exposure

As informed adults, we can’t ever “bury our heads in the sand” by turning our backs on current events. It’s, in fact, vitally important that we check in regularly with reputable news organizations because so much is happening in the political and social realm, in such a short amount of time. However, don’t allow yourself to become inundated by what can feel like a flood of information and reactions. Decide how much time a day you want to dedicate to staying informed, then try to stay within that limit.

If older kids are exposed to news or social media directly, work with them to establish boundaries and talk about what they’re hearing and seeing. With younger kids, we need to be wary that their little ears are picking up on our adult conversations. Decide what information you want to convey to them, and be ready to answer their questions in an age-appropriate manner.

Do Good, Feel Good

One of the best ways to feel better is by doing good for those around you. Find a way that you and your family or classroom can volunteer to make the world a better place. Working selflessly for others can do wonders for your own state of mind. This is also a great opportunity to connect with other people, and build an emotional and social support network.

If you are concerned about the treatment of vulnerable members of society, or discriminatory attitudes, consider supporting causes that reflect your values and help those who could benefit most from your assistance.  Working with children to raise funds to support a cause can be empowering, and allow for substantive discussions on important issues.

Practice Self-Care

When you’re feeling stressed out or sad, take a moment for yourself. Think about the good things in your life that you’re grateful for. Take a break and do something just for you – like reading a book, listening to your favorite song or going for a stroll – and just be present in the moment. Meditate or just lie down and rest for a bit! In order to be kind to others, you must first be kind to yourself.

Suggest these strategies to children as well; these are valuable life lessons that will help them navigate future challenges.  You can also make use of online resources to find support and recommendations.

#CelebrateDiversity

We would love to hear the beautiful, thoughtful, brave ways you are making the world a better place! Take a moment to #CelebrateDiversity with us on social media, and keep up the good work!

 

“World” by Kevin Dooley via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/9nZaR3

Celebrate Diversity! #CelebrateDiversity

holding handsAfter this divisive and polarizing election season, one thing is clear: Now more than ever, we need to celebrate the diversity in our nation and our communities.

“I can imagine nothing more terrifying than an Eternity filled with men who were all the same. The only thing which has made life bearable…has been the diversity of creatures on the surface of the globe.”  – T.H. White

It is clear that some of the rhetoric during this campaign encouraged an ignorance about various ethnic groups and religions.  It also empowered white-supremacists and gave a voice to those who exploit minorities, as is evidenced by the increase in hate crimes and racist incidents since the election. This must be rejected and battled at every turn.

Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  We need to use our knowledge to educate people about different cultures and beliefs. We need to show them the beauty of a diverse society; the strength we derive when we all work together to solve problems. We need to support those who are struggling and fearful, and show them that they are valued, appreciated and heard.

Join us as we launch our non-partisan campaign to Celebrate Diversity!

What can you do?

  • Share your thoughts and ideas on our blog, or via Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #CelebrateDiversity.
  • Post your beautiful images of diversity on Instagram. Share your videos about diversity on YouTube.
  • When you need encouragement, look at the images and ideas that others have shared.

Celebrate Diversity – Resources

For ideas on celebrating diversity, and teaching children about other ethnicities, religions and cultures, take a look at some of our ideas on the subject, and share your own with us!

How are you educating others about diverse religions and cultures? How are you supporting children (and adults) who are anxious and fearful about their future?

“#68 A Pair of Hands – Holding Hands” by RichardBH via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/fAn6w8

Teaching Tolerance in Turbulent Times

many hands together
It may feel like every time you turn on the TV or check your Facebook or Twitter feed, you are inundated with news of yet another violent tragedy in some part of the world. Terrorist attacks and political upheaval seem to be the norm now, not the exception. We are all asking ourselves what can be done to stop the endless stream of violence. A crucial step is one that is closest to us: one of the most important, immediate ways to create a better, safer future is to raise children with tolerance in their hearts.

Changes in Immigration

Recent terrorist attacks have brought ISIS, radical Islam and immigration to the forefront of discussion, at home and in the political arena. Countries around the world are trying to figure out the best way to strike at the heart of the matter to prevent future terrorist attacks. The recent passage of Brexit in the UK is evidence that many people fear immigration, without fully understanding the complexity of the issue. One example in particular is the disturbing trend of people not distinguishing between “Muslims” and “Islamic terrorists.” This leads to a host of fears, animosity, and disparaging talk that are counterproductive in a country and educational system as diverse as ours.

Honest & Age-Appropriate Conversations

As parents and teachers, it’s tempting to think of these issues as grown-up problems. We’d like to think our kids are oblivious to such serious, frightening and overwhelming problems. But in reality, those little ears pick up much more than we realize, from conversations between parents or from other kids on the playground. Children do not always understand the impact of what they are saying on those around them, and can benefit from discussions with adults to help them dig below the surface of what they hear.
With such intense media coverage and the inevitable conversations, debates or even arguments that result from it, we can’t leave our kids to draw their own conclusions, or pick up whatever is being passed around by their peers. Children, and ultimately all of society, benefit from honest, age-appropriate communication with the trusted adults in their lives.

Important Learning Opportunities

Look at these conversations as a chance to get a clear understanding of what kids are hearing, and how that makes them feel.
  • Discuss tolerance and the beauty of diversity in our society.
  • Teach lessons of empathy and caring. Talk about why refugees and other immigrants come to this country. Imagine the challenges of starting life in a new country. Discuss how children might feel who are part of the religious groups that are being vilified.
  • For older kids, have fact-based discussions in the classroom about gun control and immigration reform. Just be sure to set ground rules first that eliminate hateful speech from discussions, so students in a diverse classroom won’t feel threatened.

Online Resources about Tolerance & Diversity

Here are just a few of the many online resources available to help you in these discussions:

Some Quotes to Inspire Tolerance

The highest result of education is tolerance. – Helen Keller
Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population. – Albert Einstein

Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant? – Henry David Thoreau

School diversity many hands held together” by Wonder woman0731 via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/J5Ys9N

 

We’re linking up with other educational bloggers to bring you fun ideas and a great giveaway too!

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3 Ways to Ease the School-to-Summer Transition (and Back)

transition to summer vacation

Not everyone feels the same about the start of summer break. Yes, there’s excitement over long days to play and a more relaxed pace. But there can also be sadness and anxiety about big changes to the daily routine, not seeing schoolmates, travel and the start of the next school year looming on the horizon. Adults and kids alike can be caught unprepared for this unique mix of emotions. Here, we offer 3 tips to ease your transition into summer break… and back again.

Keep to a Somewhat-Schedule

june sleeping in

It may be impossible to follow a strict schedule during summer break. There are so many fun things to do, fewer responsibilities and hopefully more relaxation.

Several consecutive days of pool parties and barbecues may be exciting, but can still be over-stimulating for sensitive little ones. Try to space out activities, even if that means you have to politely turn down an invitation or two.

While it’s tempting to let the kids sleep in until mid-morning and play until they run out of steam late at night, keeping consistent bedtimes throughout summer will keep kids (and their adults) from becoming over-tired and cranky.

Keep On Learning

hands reading bilingual book

Taking a months-long hiatus from learning might set your kids up for a rough transition back into the classroom come September. We’ve written about the dreaded “summer slide,” when kids lose some of the progress they made the year before, and how to avoid it. For bilingual learners, especially, a long break from consistent language exposure will erode much of their hard work.

Set aside some time in your schedule – it can be every day or a few days a week – for learning activities. Learning resources can come from last year’s teacher, your school, a local library and online. Don’t feel pressured to make headway into next year’s curriculum on your own. It’s ok to maintain the skill set they were working on last year.

Even when your family is on-the-go, there are plenty of fun summer travel activities to keep the learning alive.

Keep in Touch with School Friends

june playdate

For younger kids especially, it’s important to see familiar faces during the summer break. Setting up a regular playdate with school friends helps alleviate boredom, as well as any lingering anxiety from the change in their routine.

Fresh off the last day of school, the summer may seem to stretch out endlessly before you. But before you know it, you’ll be school supply shopping once again, and you’ll be glad you stuck to a somewhat-schedule all summer. 

What are some of your favorite summer learning activities? Comment below and share your ideas!

 

“Gulf Shores 2013” by rustydollar72 via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/f2noUC

“Sickies.” by Monica H. via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/e2ugur

“playdate” by Krynop via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/bEEYva

Hindi Language & Hindi Books: Facts, Figures & Resources

hindi children's books and resources

Today’s spotlight language is Hindi. Below, we offer background and interesting facts about the language, as well as information to help you find Hindi children’s books.

Where is it spoken?

Hindi is the official language of India (along with English). Hindi is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. There are approximately 425 million speakers worldwide.

How Many People Speak Hindi in the US?

According to the most recent US Census data, there are about 670,000 Hindi speakers in the US. There are large Hindi speaking populations in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and California.

Interesting Facts About Hindi

Hindi is a relatively easy language to read. It is written left to write, is phonetic, and doesn’t include articles like “a” or “the.”

It’s important to use the correct formal or informal style of speech in context, depending on whom you are addressing.

Nouns are either masculine or feminine, and affect adjective and verb use.

The most common greeting in Hindi is “namaste,” and handshakes are only common in certain situations, not in everyday life.

Hindi Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

Teachers frequently ask for suggestions on some of the best bilingual Hindi storybooks and audio books for kids.  Some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and the Hindi language include: The Wheels on the Bus, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Little Red Hen and the Grains of Wheat.  There is also an illustrated Hindi-English dictionary with audio for children.

Do you speak Hindi, or know someone who does? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

“India” by Nick Kenrick via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/ojmzob

Russian Language & Russian Books: Facts, Figures & Resources

russian language children's books

Today’s spotlight language is Russian. Below, we offer background and interesting facts about the language, as well as information to help you find Russian children’s books.

Where is it spoken?

Russian is the national language of Russia, as well as Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan. It’s also widely used in other European countries like Ukraine, Latvia, and Estonia. Russian is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. There are approximately 260 million speakers worldwide. It’s one of six official languages of the United Nations.

How Many People Speak Russian in the US?

According to the 2011 US Census, there are about 900,000 Russian speakers in the US. There are large Russian speaking populations in New York, New Jersey, California, Washington and Oregon.

Interesting Facts About Russian

In the mid-1700s, there were three recognized styles of written Russian: Low, middle and high. Low style was used in everyday correspondence, middle for prose and poetry, and high for poetry and religion. Ultimately, middle style became the standard Russian of today.

The Russian language also makes use of patronyms, which convey lineage by using the names of male ancestors. A person’s first name is combined with a form of his/her father’s name and -ovich (son of) or -ovna (daughter of) is added onto the end. For example, if Natasha’s father’s name is Ivan, you would address her as Natasha Ivanovna.

Russian Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

Teachers frequently ask for suggestions on some of the best bilingual Russian books for children.   Some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and the Russian language include: Farmer Duck, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Hen and the Grains of Wheat, Goose Fables and The Giant Turnip (an adaptation of a humorous Russian folk tale).  There is also an illustrated Russian-English dictionary with audio for children.

Do you speak Russian, or know someone who does? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

“Matryoshka dolls, Moscow” by neiljs via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/5ZHNPu

Multicultural, Multilingual Libraries for Diverse Communities

multicultural library

April is an important month for our nation’s libraries. Take the time to celebrate the many ways our libraries contribute to our communities. In a previous post, we explored innovative ways for libraries to attract ethnic populations. Here, we take a look at ways libraries can transform a community.

Diverse Communities, Multicultural Library Offerings

Libraries have always been a place to read and learn, and have functioned as important community centers. Librarians assess their communities, its needs, and decide how best to meet those needs. Community outreach is a big part of a library’s purpose. As the US becomes more diverse, it’s imperative that libraries increase their services and programs to meet the needs of non-native-English speakers. These changes establish libraries as true centers of learning for the entire community.

National Library Week

The second full week of April each year is National Library Week. It’s a time to celebrate and promote our nation’s school, public, and academic libraries. This year’s theme is “Libraries transform.” It’s an initiative from the American Library Assocation (ALA) aimed at making more of the public aware of the many services libraries offer, and the value and impact of those services in communities. The main idea behind the initiative is that “[l]ibraries today are less about what they have for people and more about what they do for and with people.”

Dia! Diversity in Action

April 30 of each year is the culmination of Dia! Diversity in Action, a nationwide initiative from the ALA. Also known as El dia de los ninos/El dia de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), it provides support to libraries wanting to connect their patrons to more bilingual/multicultural services and resources. The initiative is a “daily commitment to linking children and their families to diverse books, languages and cultures.”

Storytime in a Foreign Language & More

The Association for Library Service to Children, the world’s largest organization supporting children’s library services, includes multicultural programs in its list of recommended programs for school-aged children. One is Storytime in a Foreign Language, where members of the community are invited to come in and read books in their native language. Parents are also encouraged to share foreign language books and cultural stories with their children.

PENpal Audio Recorder Pen – A Unique Tool for Libraries

The PENpalTalking Pen” is great for libraries in search of an easy-to-use, multipurpose tool that will attract and meet the needs of their ethnic patrons. In addition to turning existing bilingual children’s books into audio books in over 40 languages, the Mantra Lingua PENpal can bring fully customized recordings to any learning resource. Just some examples:

  • Listen to sound-enable posters, photos or charts
  • Create interactive displays
  • Create verbal treasure hunts for children to follow
  • Provide step-by-step instruction for any Learning Center
  • Make an oral version of forms and booklets to facilitate communication with patrons.

The PENpal Recorder Pen is so versatile, it can be used to support reading, writing, speaking and listening for any person in need of an inclusive resource that develops literacy skills.

Do you have an outstanding multicultural library in your neighborhood?  Tell us about their innovative programs and services by commenting below!

 

“Canada Water Library Shelves” by Barney Moss via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/dNwts8