A Multicultural Pirate’s Reading Night

Yuliana Morales-Schafer, Cedar Ridge Primary, Branson, MO

A Multicultural Pirate’s Reading Night

Introduction

Our school mascot is a pirate. My project, A Multicultural Pirate’s Reading Night, was an event in which multicultural families who have children enrolled in Preschool or Kindergarten were invited to learn about the importance of promoting literacy in their first language as well as English. The staff from Parents As Teachers and I partnered for this project as they serve many families that speak a language other than English. Families shared their traditions and culture by creating a representation of their family. Information was shared regarding the importance of reading to children in their home language and sharing their culture with them. At the end of the event, families picked a book in their home language to read with their children.

A Multicultural Pirate’s Reading Night is an event where multicultural families in our school are invited to come and make a craft, share about their culture, meet other families and learn about the importance of reading during the early years. As an English learner myself, and as a parent, it has always been important to me to make sure that my children grow up bilingual. It is very important to me that my children are able to read and write in Spanish as well as English, therefore I have engaged in literacy activities in both languages such as singing songs, reading books and playing games in both languages. As a teacher I have learned that many parents do not have the resources or knowledge about the importance of engaging with their young children in literacy activities. I wanted this event to accomplish two goals: 

  • Share information with parents about the benefits of engaging children in literacy activities in both English and their home languages.
  • Make sure parents receive resources (books, activities to do at home, etc.) and emphasize the school library as a source of multilingual and culturally relevant materials.

Our school has a 7.3% population of EL students; therefore, it is critical that they feel like an important part of our community, that they feel represented and that their cultures are acknowledged as an asset. Having more resources in the library was a first step in making sure students were able to take home books they could enjoy with their parents and families that accurately reflected their language and culture. During the event, families created a representation of their family and shared their cultural practices. This activity was very fun and helped families interact with each other while learning about the similarities and differences among different cultures. Many families came dressed in traditional clothing which also was a great way to share about their cultural backgrounds and traditions.

Step-by-Step Plan

  • Talk to the ELL instructor regarding ideas on the project and determine what languages are spoken in our school.
  • Make a list of books in the different languages most commonly used in our school.
  • Order the supplies for the event.
  • Meet with the Principal and Parents As Teachers to finalize details (date, food, and procedures for sign up).
  • Create a sign up and flyers to share with families.
  • Host the event.
  • Donate books to enhance and expand the multicultural section in the library.

Timeline

Summer: Applied for the grant and was approved. Materials were ordered.

August: I received the supplies and met with everyone that would be involved with the project (Parents as teacher, principal, ELL specialist) and shared information about what the objectives of my project were. 

September: Met again and decided on a date, what food we would serve and what information we would share. The date was set for November.

October: The flyers were created and sent home. A sign-up genius link was included so families could provide information about their home language and number of people that would attend the event.

November: The event was held on November 14 from 5-6pm.

Budget

The budget for this event was $1,300. The majority of the budget was spent purchasing books for the family night. The majority of the books were purchased from this Amazon wish list, and also I found some Japanese books. I ordered Pirate themed tablecloths and bookmarks to decorate the table where we would place the books to take home. 

What did it look like?

Sustainability

In order to make sure we can continue to host this event for many years to come, the remainder of the books were donated to the school library. We will host the family night event every year and talk to incoming families about promoting literacy at home and the multilingual resources available in the library. The librarian can order more copies of the books if they see that families are frequently utilizing the resources. 

Reflections

Having the opportunity to organize this event was an amazing experience. At first, the task seemed overwhelming but having a detailed timeline of what needed to be done for each step and who was responsible was incredibly helpful. As a member of a bilingual household and teacher, I started by identifying a need in our community. I realized that many families may not have resources in their home languages and sometimes that keeps them from engaging in literacy activities, especially if they are not able to read in English. In fact, it was a conversation with a parent that inspired this idea because we were talking about reading books with her child. She shared that she couldn’t read well in English, so we talked about sometimes just making up the story in Spanish using the book in English. That made me think about getting more resources in the hands of parents. 

In my household, making sure our kids grow up bilingual is very important, but in the community where we live, there are not a lot of opportunities for our kids to speak Spanish or see the importance of speaking it. I also thought putting resources in the school library and making sure the kids see their home cultures represented in books would be a great asset to our school and community. Having books in multiple languages opens the door for teachers to incorporate these resources in their classrooms as well. 

Partnering with Parents As Teachers was a huge success as they serve our youngest Pirates ages birth through 3 years old and they work with many multicultural families. I was very grateful for their support in this event. I hope that this event will open the door for many more opportunities for multicultural families to come together and learn about each other’s customs and traditions as well as share resources and create a community. I would hope that there will be many more opportunities to celebrate the different cultures represented in our school and that all students feel valued and represented. It is my hope that we can create a more culturally inclusive environment in which all languages and cultures are celebrated and encouraged.

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