Home Language Reading Skills:

Creating Routines for Literacy at Home

Jenny Rathbun, Global Academy, Kansas City, MO

Home Language Reading Skills:

Introduction

As many refugee and immigrant families arrive in America, their focus on language and literacy often shifts exclusively to the English language. Multilingualism is a strength, and it is important that our families maintain their home language literacy skills in conjunction with their English language acquisition. This project is aimed at supplying newcomer families with information about why and how to maintain home language literacy skills as a family. Through this grant, each family will receive an informational packet explaining the importance of family literacy, tips for supporting students' home languages, discussion topics for after reading a book together, a QR code to learn about the Seal of Biliteracy, a book to read together in each student’s home language, and resources to help families find additional books.

Step-by-Step Plan

Step 1: Gather information about students’ home languages and age ranges.

Step 2: Find, price, and order books for various age ranges in each language represented.

Step 3: Gather resources for informational packets.

Step 4: Have the packet translated into all home languages represented at school.

Step 5: Print and assemble informational packets.

Step 6: Notify families of project. Distribute books and informational packets to each student.

Timeline

See plan above.

Budget

 | Item | Language | Age Range (Yrs.)
| The Rainbow Fish | Spanish | 4-8
| Where the Wild Things Are | Spanish | 4-8
| The Adventures of Captain Underpants | Spanish | 7-10
| Santiago’s Road Home | Spanish | 8-12
| The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe | Spanish | 9-12
| Esperanza Rising | Spanish | 8-12
| The Crossover | Spanish | 10-12
| We Can All Be Friends | Haitian Creole | 0-12
| There’s Rice at Home | Swahili | 2-5
| Sauti Ya Jogoo | Swahili | N/A
| Greedy Kiundu | Swahili | 3-12
| Magozwe | Swahili | 3-12
| The Three Little Pigs | Swahili | N/A
| The Little Girl and the Three Lions | Swahili | N/A
| The Lion and the Mouse | Tigrinya | N/A
| Samad in the Forest | Kunama | 6-10
| Goodnight, My Love! | Sudanese Arabic | 3-9
| Sometimes I Get Upset | Sudanese Arabic | N/A
| Samad in the Forest | Kinyarwanda | 6-10
| A Trip to the Zoo | Kinyarwanda | 9-12
| At Night | Burmese | 3-12
| Arnold Loved to Fish | Burmese | 3-12
| Two Sisters and a Cat | Burmese | 3-12
| Kinoi’s Animal Story | Burmese | 3-12
| We Can All Be Friends | Karen | 0-12
| Musical Instruments from Around the World | Karen | 5-12
| Amazing Sports from Around the World | Karen | 5-12
| The Runaway Injera | Amharic | 0-14
| The Lion Who Saw Himself in the Water | Dari | 4-12
| The More We Get Together | Pashto | 3-7

What did it look like?

Sustainability

Once the informational packets have been created, they can be duplicated for future use. Through fundraising, grants, donations, and/or appealing to the district for funds, we can continue to provide students with books to promote family literacy and multilingualism. There are also printable and digital texts that could be used to promote family literacy. Additionally, creating a community library could help families share and exchange books indefinitely.

Reflections

I learned a lot through this experience. First, I learned how difficult it can be to find a variety of texts in many of the languages spoken at home by the students at our school. For some languages, options are limited, and the books that are available are expensive. Because of this, I searched for digital texts and was able to find a few sites that provide free digital or PDF copies of books in the majority of the languages represented at my school. I was able to create QR codes of those sites and included them in the informational packet I provided to families. Still, though, there was one language in which I could not find any texts for purchase or any online resources offering free or paid-for copies of books. Through a deep dive on the internet, I finally found two children’s stories written in that language and made them into personalized books for those two students. 

Another problem I encountered that I had not anticipated was an influx of new students three weeks before I had planned to implement my project. I was able to order additional books through remaining grant funds, but that still did not cover all our new students, and it was important to me that every current student at my school received a book and informational packet in their home language. I spent the next two weeks making books for new students. In the end, I was able to provide a book, either purchased or assembled by me, to 143 students written in their home languages.

For families to create and sustain literacy practices in their home languages, they must have access to multilingual books. This project enabled me to see that many of our newcomer families may struggle with accessing texts, so I was happy to be able to share the various resources I came across to help them access more books. 

In the end, the distribution day was so exciting for me to see. Many of the students held their books tightly to their chests when they realized the books were theirs to keep. It was a joyous day and one that I hope to recreate each school year. 

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