Category Archives: community support

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

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

Japanese Language & Japanese Books: Facts, Figures & Resources

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

Where is it spoken?

Japanese is the national language of Japan, and there are approximately 125 million speakers worldwide. Its origins are unknown, and it has no known linguistic relatives. There are dozens of dialects spoken in Japan, but the main distinctions are between Tokyo-type and Kyoto-Osaka-type.

How Many People Speak Japanese in the US?

According to the 2011 US Census, there are 436,100 Japanese speakers in the US. There are large Japanese-speaking populations in California, Washington, New York, and Washington, D.C.

Interesting Facts About Japanese

Modern Japanese began around 1600. It has a large number of “loan words” from the Chinese language (words of Chinese origin). In the last 50 years, the number of loan words from the English language has grown considerably, especially words that are technology related. For example, intānetto for “internet.” Loan words can also be shortened, like wāpuro for “word processor.”

The writing system consists primarily of three scripts: kanji, hiragana and katakana. Japanese writings can be in “western style,” which is in horizontal rows starting from the top, or “japanese style,” vertical columns starting from the right.

Japanese Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

Teachers frequently ask for suggestions on some of the best bilingual Japanese books for children.   Some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and the Japanese language include: Mei Ling’s Hiccups, Farmer Duck, Little Red Hen and the Grains of Wheat, Lima’s Red Hot Chilli and My Daddy is  Giant.  There is also an illustrated Japanese English dictionary with audio for children.

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

“Japan” by Moyan Brenn via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Head Start Funding Opportunities

Head Start funding opportunities

In our Funding & Grants series of articles, we provide information for educators looking for special funding to help them purchase multilingual resources to support language learners. In a previous post, we focused on Title III grants. Here, we take a look at Head Start funding.

Head Start Program – Background Info

The Office of Head Start (OHS) is an organization within the US Department of Health and Human Services. It’s government-run, and has its roots in the 1960s. Head Start was designed to help break the cycle of poverty by providing low-income families with a comprehensive preschool program – one that meets the emotional, social, health, nutritional and psychological needs of children. Head Starts helps over a million children and their families in the US each year.

Head Start consists of a preschool program for 3 and 4 year olds, and an Early Head Start program, which offers services for pregnant women, infants and toddlers.

“Head Start comprehensive services include:

  • Early Learning
  • Screenings and follow-up for health, development, and behavior
  • Health and safety
  • Social and emotional development
  • Nutrition
  • Family goal-setting
  • Social services
  • Transition services
  • Services for children with disabilities”

Funding Resources

Head Start grants are awarded directly to public or private non-profit organizations. Eligible community organizations can be community-based, faith-based, or for-profit agencies.

OHS offers a comprehensive toolkit to help community organizations apply for Head Start funding. There are multiple steps that must be completed during the registration process, before submitting an application. The toolkit has directions on finding grant opportunities online, and helps you track your application after it’s been submitted.


“Head Start” by Fort Carson via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Nepali Language & Nepali Books: Facts, Figures and Resources

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

Where is it spoken?

Nepali is the official language of Nepal, a country in South Asia. It is also spoken in Bhutan, Burma (Republic of the Union of Myanmar), and India. There are about 17 million Nepali speakers around the world.

map of nepal nepali books bilingual childrens books

How Many People Speak Nepali in the US?

There are relatively large Nepalese communities in New York, California and Texas. According to the US Census Bureau’s most recent estimates in 2014, over 120,000 people in the US identify as Nepalese. Of these, about 25,000 are school-aged children.

Interesting Facts About Nepali

In the past, Nepali was called the Khas language and Gorkhali.

One of the most well known words in Nepali is “namaste,” which means hello. It is usually spoken with a slight bow and palms pressed together. It can be used as a greeting or a goodbye. A more casual greeting is “Tik chha,” which means “How are you?”

Nepali Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

Teachers frequently ask for suggestions on some of the best bilingual Nepali books for children.   Here are some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and the Nepali language as well as a Nepali English dictionary for children.

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


“Nepal – Evening lights at Bhaktapur” by Dhilung Kirat via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Nepal-map-blank” By CIA World fact book (Image:Nepal-CIA_WFB_Map.png) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Educational Resources for Student Immigrants, Refugees

bilingual resources for student immigrants, refugeesThe number of immigrant and refugee children has increased over the past decade, and is now the fastest-growing segment in the US youth population. These students face many challenges when adapting to a new life in the US: culture shock, making friends, and learning a new language, just to name a few.  All too often, schools lack the resources to research the best ways to help these students, and miss out on methods developed by other districts that have faced similar issues. Below are some online resources that can help educators trying to accommodate an increasingly diverse student population.

Refugee or Immigrant?

An immigrant is “someone who chooses to resettle to another country.” For example, a foreign national who is issued a visa to live and work permanently in the US via a legal process to attain citizenship.

A refugee is “someone who has been forced to flee his or her home country.” Refugees apply for asylum in the US, and must prove that they will be injured if they return to their home country due to their race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion.

How to Prepare Your Classroom

New York’s Bureau of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance offers a straightforward guide with tips to prepare your classroom for new immigrant and refugee students. The tips include discussing the advantages of having students from around the world in the classroom, showing on a map where the students are from, and how far they have traveled, and the importance of watching out for signals that newcomers are being bullied, since many refugee students won’t voluntary speak up about these issues.

The US Department of Education has a website dedicated to “Educational Resources for Immigrants, Refugees, Asylees and other New Americans.” There, you can find the latest news and guides that focus on the importance of integrating newcomers into the classroom community. You can also find resources like a toolkit for school districts serving English language learners, and services for unaccompanied children.

Welcome & Orient Newcomers

To help smooth the transition for newcomers arriving at a new school, create a welcome process for teachers, administrators and students. Include a school ambassador program, where newcomers are paired with a “buddy” who is a trained peer, and try to integrate information about the new student’s culture and country into your classroom routines. Or, find appropriate activities to keep the new student engaged in learning while their English skills are still developing.

Reach out to Parents

The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools offers a detailed guide that focuses on the importance of successfully engaging the parents of immigrant and refugee students. It gives many ways to partner with those families, and reminds us that “refugee parents resettled here for their children. They are fully invested in their children’s future.” Some tips include having regular meetings with families that include bilingual support, food and childcare.

All children go through a transition period when first entering school. Immigrant and refugee children, in particular, need clear and dedicated support from their schools. By doing this right from the beginning, the year is sure to progress more smoothly and comfortably for everyone in the classroom.


“I <3 2 read” by Kate Ter Haar via Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0

This blog post is linked with the monthly iTeachBilinguals linkup. Be sure to check out other bloggers’ tips, teaching strategies, and resources!

Creating Community in Your Classroom

Teamwork and team spirit - Hands piled on top of one another .It’s the start of a new school year, and your classroom fills with a brand new kaleidoscope of personalities. You may find yourself wondering how to help an eclectic group of kids connect with each other. How do you bring your class together as a community, and jump start the conversation and collaboration? You want to create a safe, secure and nurturing learning environment for all children – an especially challenging task when they come from diverse backgrounds.

Celebrate Individuality

individuality purple flower in white flower field

Although it may sound a bit counter-intuitive, one of the best ways to create a sense of community is by celebrating individuality. Kids love to see themselves reflected in the classroom.  As discussed in our recent post about understanding and appreciating cultural differences in the classroom, when kids contrast and compare family holidays and traditions without judgment, respect and acceptance begins. Reading world folk tales and fables is a great way to explore new traditions from various cultures.

The Concept of Community

classroom community hands together teamwork multicultural bilingual language

You may want to begin by exploring the concept of a community with your class. Yes, it’s a group of people who share something in common, but there are so many less obvious aspects, particularly in a classroom setting. Language Lizard offers a free standards-based lesson plan that teaches students all about the concept of community: What is it, why is it important to have one, and what makes a community stronger?

Sarah Brown Wessling, 2010 National Teacher of the Year and the Teacher Laureate for Teaching Channel, talks about the importance of creating “classroom chemistry” in a blog article, which she describes as the moment when a “certain group of students auspiciously find each other in a classroom.” She discusses 14 ways to create it with your students, and the important role that good chemistry plays in keeping students engaged in the classroom. For another in-depth look at the importance of building a classroom community, check out The Center for the Collaborative Classroom’s Child Development Project, which offers more activity ideas and supporting research.

Predictable, Nurturing Classroom Environment

A classroom that is not just functional, but also comfortable and comforting, encourages learning. Things like lighting, temperature, desk spacing, and a comfy reading corner are physically comforting. A predictable daily routine is emotionally comforting, as are clearly defined rules for classroom behavior. This article from Edutopia discusses how the use of daily trust-building activities can create a support system in your classroom.

What are some ways you create an outstanding community in your classroom? Comment below and share your experiences!

“Teamwork and team spirit” by 드림포유 via Flickr is licensed under CC BY ND 2.0

“Individuality” by Joey Gannon via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

“Team.” by Dawn (Willis) Manser via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Great Giveaways for Back-to-School

back to school giveaway from iTeachBilinguals

If you’re getting ready to head back to school, we have two great giveaways for you!

First, you should check out iTeachBilinguals and their Back-to-School Giveaway. You can enter now through August 8, 2015 by following this link. The grand prize winner will receive an iPad Air 2! A winner will be announced August 9, 2015.

Another great giveaway for language learners is Language Lizard’s Cookbook & Bilingual Book Giveaway. You can win a copy of Room to Read’s Recipes Worth Reading cookbook AND a surprise bilingual book in English and the language of your choice! It’s easy to enter, no purchase necessary. A winner will be chosen September 16, 2015.

Happy reading, and we hope you enjoy the rest of your summer!

Cookbook & Bilingual Book Giveaway

Cover of Room to Read cookbook "Recipes Worth Reading"Summer is a great time to enjoy fresh food, try new recipes, and connect with family by sharing both a good meal and a good book. Language Lizard is making that easier with our “COOK & READ” Giveaway where you can win a cookbook and a bilingual book.

Room to Read

Room to Read is an organization that “envision[s] a world in which all children can pursue a quality education, reach their full potential and contribute to their community and the world.” Our friends at the Central NJ Chapter of Room to Read have created a delightful cookbook, Recipes Worth Reading, with 150 recipes from around the world. Each chapter represents a country Room to Read operates in. There are sections with Appetizers, Soups & Salads, Eating Light, Allergen Free, One Pot Dishes, Desserts and more! Best of all, 100% of proceeds from the cookbook benefit Room to Read programs supporting literacy and gender equality in education in Africa and Asia. You can order the cookbook through the Barnes & Noble website. To learn more about Room to Read, visit

How to Enter:

COOK & READ Giveaway: You can win a copy of Room to Read’s Recipes Worth Reading cookbook AND a surprise bilingual book in English and the language of your choice. Entering the giveaway is simple:
1) No purchase necessary: Simply fill out our contact form and write “COOK & READ” in the comments section, along with your choice of language from one of Language Lizard’s 40+ languages.
2) If you are making a purchase, you can write “COOK & READ” and your language choice in the order notes section, and you will also be entered.
Bonus entry point: Tell us you posted about this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter or your Blog, and you will get one extra entry point!
Language Lizard will accept entries until September 15, 2015, and three winners will be selected using’s number generator.  One entry per person please.

The Multicultural Library: Responding to the Needs of Ethnically Diverse Communities

multicultural library with ethnically diverse booksAccording to 2013 Census data, nearly 13% of the US population is now foreign born and about 1 in 5 residents age 5 and older speak a language other than English at home. These figures are expected to increase, and are considerably higher in many areas of the country. Many new immigrants are struggling to learn English while maintaining their connection with their heritage language and country.

Innovative Ways for Libraries to Attract Ethnic Populations

As the United States has become increasingly diverse, more and more librarians are implementing creative strategies to attract and meet the needs of their ethnic patrons. Many libraries have transformed themselves into centers of information and learning for the diverse community. Following is a list of innovative ways librarians are welcoming and attracting their ethnic populations:

  1. Presenting story times in various languages.
  2. Offering newspapers in multiple languages.
  3. Developing a collection of bilingual children’s books for language learners and families trying to teach a heritage language to their children. Patron feedback has been especially positive when librarians set aside a “bilingual book display area” instead of simply including the books in their stacks.
  4. Sponsoring/hosting English as a Second Language (ESL) classes or creating “literacy centers” to help adults learn English.
  5. Offering special programs, such as citizenship classes or cultural programs that highlight important ethnic holidays (e.g., Chinese New Year, El Día de los Niños).
  6. Displaying colorful multilingual posters, and putting up signs in multiple languages.
  7. Carrying books that promote an acceptance of diversity, have multicultural themes and include illustrations of ethnically diverse characters.
  8. Accepting alternative forms of identification (such as a Matricula Consular from Mexico) and address verifications (such as utility bills and rent receipts) in order to increase access to the library. REFORMA, a national network of library organizations dedicated to promoting library services to the Spanish-speaking communities, suggests that this will help ensure that libraries serve the community regardless of a patron’s legal status.
  9. Hiring staff that speaks the language(s) of the immigrant communities (another recommendation by REFORMA).

Starting Your Multicultural Library

For librarians just beginning to develop their programs and collections for ethnic patrons and language learners, here are a few recommendations to get started:

  • Look up census data to determine which languages your library should support. The Modern Language Association offers a Language Map where users can find the number of speakers of each foreign language by zip code, city, county or state. The information also is available directly from The US Census Bureau.
  • Conduct an informal (or formal) survey of patrons to find out which newspapers they would read and which language books are most in demand.
  • Start with a small collection of children’s books and display them in a bilingual or foreign language book area. This will stimulate interest, and drive more patrons to share their own needs. It also will provide an opportunity to assess which books are checked out most.
  • Post multilingual posters and/or signs to welcome all patrons.
  • Ask around to see if there is a volunteer parent, board member or teacher who would be willing to conduct a bilingual or non-English story time.

Ethnic patrons truly appreciate when libraries increase their language holdings and offer services and programs to meet the needs of non-native-English speakers. Small, gradual steps to move forward in this area are met with great response, and establish libraries as true centers of learning for the entire community.

Tell us about an outstanding multicultural library in your neighborhood by commenting below!

This article originally appeared in Language Lizard’s Culture Connection Newsletter.  To receive this newsletter, please sign up here.

Photo “New Public Library In Dun Laoghaire, Officially Called DLR Lexicon Opened To The Public Today And It Is Worth Visiting Ref-100534” by William Murphy via Flickr, licensed under CC By 2.0.