Celebrating Multilingual Magic:

Nurturing the Social and Emotional Well-being of English Language Learning Children

Lara Garrett and Tracy Greiner, Wanda Gray Elementary, Springfield, Missouri

Celebrating Multilingual Magic:

Introduction

Wanda Gray Elementary stands as a cornerstone for education in Springfield, Missouri, providing a nurturing space for a diverse student population. Currently hosting 483 students weekly, with 29 benefiting from English Language Development (ELD) services and speaking languages other than English at home, our school community thrives on inclusivity. Aiming to both foster empathy among native English speakers, and address the unique needs of immigrant children and their families, who contribute linguistic and cultural richness, our proposal, "Celebrating Multilingual Magic," is a collaborative effort by the librarian, counselor, and English Language Development Specialist. This initiative focuses on acquiring bilingual library books in eight languages spoken within the school community and emphasizes multiliteracy promotion. By engaging parents as guest readers and implementing a comprehensive evaluation strategy, we aspire to foster cultural understanding, celebrate linguistic diversity, and support the social and emotional well-being of our students. This proposal's strengths-based approach aligns seamlessly with best practices in educating emergent bilingual students, ensuring a nurturing and empowering educational experience.

In the vibrant landscape of Wanda Gray Elementary, we acknowledge the richness of cultures and languages that weave together to form our unique school community. Our unwavering commitment is to nurture the social and emotional well-being of all children, recognizing the power of celebrating linguistic and cultural diversity. Through our proposed initiative, "Celebrating Multilingual Magic," we aim to create an environment that is not only inclusive but also fosters a sense of belonging for every child, regardless of their background, empowering them to find their voice and thrive through the transformative magic of books and storytelling.

As a cohesive team comprising a librarian, counselor, and English Language Development (ELD) specialist, we actively engage in understanding the distinctive needs of our English Language students and their families. Our counselor takes an active role in promoting bilingual library books during school assemblies that coincide with cultural heritage months, such as Hispanic Heritage Month and Asian-American Heritage Month. Moreover, we envision engaging families and guardians by inviting them to become guest readers in our library featuring our bilingual books procured through this grant. A call to explore bilingual books and audio resources is extended not only to EL students but to English-speaking students throughout the academic year.

Step-by-Step Plan

The "Celebrating Multilingual Magic" project has outlined a step-by-step plan to create an enriching library environment, celebrating linguistic diversity, fostering cultural understanding, and supporting the social and emotional well-being of children. The key objectives are as follows:

  • Acquire bilingual library books: Focus on obtaining books in the eight languages spoken within our school community, including Arabic, Mandarin, Korean, Romanian, Spanish, Swahili, Tamil, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.
  • Promote resources to all students: Ensure that the acquired resources are actively promoted to students of all language backgrounds, creating an inclusive reading culture.
  • Read aloud and feature specific books: Include books that highlight the refugee and immigration experience in library and counseling lessons, aiming to build empathy and strengthen the school community.

Timeline

The implementation timeline for the "Celebrating Multilingual Magic" project is designed for efficiency and effectiveness:

  • August - September: Conduct research to identify languages spoken within our school and create comprehensive book lists.
  • October: Collaborate with the district library department to catalog bilingual books and set up a dedicated library section.
  • November - April: Integrate books specific to the immigration and refugee experience into lessons, aiming to build empathy and strengthen the school community. Encourage students to actively explore and check out our multilingual library resources.
  • January - Highlight books through rotating displays, and invite parents to visit as guest readers throughout the spring semester.
  • May: Evaluate the program's effectiveness with the English Language Development (ELD) Specialist and counselor, collecting valuable feedback for future enhancements.
  • Ongoing: Maintain collaborative efforts to assess the evolving needs of students and families, reaching out to them once our bilingual library resources are in place.

Budget

The "Celebrating Multilingual Magic" project received a grant of $1300, strategically allocated for the purchase of hardback books and Playaway audio books. This investment enables us to establish a diverse collection of bilingual library resources and seamlessly implement the initiative. A detailed budget spreadsheet, outlining specific items and an Amazon link, can be accessed here.



What did it look like?

Sustainability

In our commitment to sustained impact, we acknowledge that the district currently lacks formal promotion of multiliteracy, particularly outside of select IB programs in other schools. While our library already features some bilingual and non-English language books, prior to this grant, they fell short in adequately addressing the linguistic diversity of our school community. This project will continue in the future due to the 10-20 year lifespan of most circulated library books and the 5-10 year lifespan of audio Playaway books. This initial bulk purchase will be complemented by regular district allotments, which can be used to add additional titles to our collection over the years, adapting to the changing languages and needs of our student body. The ongoing commitment to diversity education and cultural celebrations will persist as the district maintains its support for equity, access, and the representation of our student populations in educational spaces.



Reflections

Our collaborative efforts extend beyond the library, involving the district library office in cataloging books for circulation statistics reports. The unwavering support from our building and department supervisors, English Language Development department, and administration further solidifies the foundation of this project. Both English Language learning students and native English-speaking students embrace the addition of books and materials received through this grant. The Playaway audio books, in particular, witness remarkable success. While bilingual dictionaries experience steady circulation, picture books featuring Spanish and other languages are currently circulated less frequently. However, a strategic plan to highlight them during heritage months, and continuing to encourage parents to join us as guest readers for these titles, will hopefully build in popularity in the coming years.

This proposal truly embodies a strengths-based approach, celebrating the linguistic and cultural assets of our students. It goes beyond being an educational initiative, evolving into a platform that promotes cultural exchange, encourages parent involvement, and ensures inclusivity. Aligned with best practices for educating emergent bilingual students, our proposal's primary focus is on nurturing the social and emotional well-being of all children - building empathy among native English speakers while empowering multilingual children, ultimately encouraging all to succeed in a diverse and interconnected world. The journey of "Celebrating Multilingual Magic" not only enriches our library but serves as a beacon for fostering a resilient, empowered, and culturally aware student community at Wanda Gray Elementary.

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