Biliteracy Breakfast:

Promoting Multilingual and Multicultural Literature in a Casual Setting

Jennifer Blaylock, Windsor C-1 School District , Imperial MO

Biliteracy Breakfast:

Introduction

Many multilingual families forgo maintaining literacy in their heritage language in the pursuit of English. It is important to highlight the value and benefits of continuing the development of home languages. By inviting students and families to read together and explore literature and language, we provide them with opportunities to educate themselves, build new connections, foster empathy, and share their own linguistic gifts. As more families see the benefits of multiliteracy, it may pave the way for more opportunities and open a door for the schools to make multiliteracy a priority.

The Biliteracy Breakfast is a way to bring families and students together to enjoy

multilingual and multicultural literature in a casual setting. Families are invited into the school to enjoy a meal and books with their own children—simply provide the space, food, information, and the opportunity to connect.

Step-by-Step Plan

  • Build a multilingual library. Create a wish list of bilingual and multicultural stories. Share your list with possible donors such as the PTO, local churches, friends and family.
  • Meet with administrators and share research about the benefits of multiliteracy and this poster. 
  • Agree on dates and times that work for your school.
  • Figure out who will pay for food.
  • Contact school food service to discuss the menu for the event.
  • Send out invitations to family to determine the number of participants. If interest is high, consider doing separate events for each grade level.
  • Consider ordering additional copies of books to give away at the event.
  • If possible, set up the event space the night before. Ask for assistance from colleagues or custodians.
  • Organize books by language or category with these table markers.
  • Set out informational handouts about the Seal of Biliteracy. Share the benefits of multiliteracy including information about local resources or websites 
  • Survey families about their linguistic backgrounds and goals.

Timeline

  • Start out by building your multilingual and multicultural library. 
  • Build interest with students and staff by doing or recording read alouds of literature.
  • Prior to the event send out invitations.
  • One week prior provide a final head count for food ordering. 
  • The day before, transport books to event space and have copies of information prepared. You may decide to decorate to make the event more festive. 
  • Host breakfast for multilingual families and share books.
  • Survey families to inform future events.

Budget

These are the books that were purchased for this event to add to the school multilingual library.

What did it look like?

Sustainability

This project is intended to be repeated year after year as often as your school or district desires. It may be annual, quarterly, or monthly. As the multilingual library grows you can offer more options and opportunities for your students and families to engage with multilingual and multicultural literature. 

Evening events such as “Multiliteracy Meal” or a “Biliteracy book buffet” that include sharing meals and literature with families are possible. The idea is to continue to honor our linguistically gifted families and to inspire others to make learning a new language part of their journey. This event has the potential to build pathways for young learners to reap the rich benefits of being multilingual and literate in more than one language. 

Future grant opportunities and donations will allow the library to grow. The events could easily be tailored to highlight specific languages or cultural celebrations. In addition, by surveying participating families, we can find parents that might be willing to read aloud in heritage languages in classrooms or share other aspects of their culture. This would build further interest and understanding. Once you have built up your literature collection, the possibilities are endless. 

Reflections

It has been a real surprise how many monolingual families have shown interest in the biliteracy breakfast event. They have been happy to talk about their own heritage and many wish they did know another language. It is my hope that this interest will expand so much that the district will offer second language instruction at the primary level. Our window for language acquisition is wide open in these early years and it would be a dream come true for this small event to grow into a movement.

Our district offers the Seal of Biliteracy to high school graduates, but many of the families I have spoken to are unaware of this fact. Raising awareness at the primary level will ensure that more students can take advantage of this prestigious opportunity. It will allow them to start their language acquisition journeys sooner and make a second language a goal they may not have previously considered. 

It has been very meaningful to some of our multilingual families to know they are seen. One parent shared how her daughter was embarrassed that she spoke Spanish at home and was so grateful for this event so she could see the value of her heritage language. She is a shy student and knowing that speaking Spanish is an asset and not something to be embarrassed about was a real revelation for her. 

This event has allowed me to connect with families on a more personal level. I get to learn about immigrant experiences, traditions, and beliefs. A parent from the Ukraine attended and brought a dish of homemade Ukrainian cookies. I would love to invite more parents to share traditional dishes at future events. Building these relationships makes it so much easier when I have reached out to parents about other issues.

Families have the opportunity to connect with each other as well. They may make a connection with another family that shares the same heritage language. Families can build empathy and understanding through personal connection and literature. Diversity is lacking in our region and local politics are often not sensitive to the immigrant experience.

This event has also helped me to build connections and awareness with colleagues and school staff throughout the district. Promoting biliteracy to monolingual families has fueled my desire to make multiliteracy a priority for my own children. I look forward to watching this event grow and will continue to celebrate the linguistic diversity in our community.

What did it look like?

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