"...and they lived happily ever after. The End." *Classroom Applause* This is part of a recent proud teacher moment I had during an interactive read aloud with my 6th-8th grade Language Arts class. All of my students, without any prompting, clapped for their peers who volunteered to read aloud in front of the entire class. This is no small feat for students who are still learning English!
A majority of my students are Somali, and they are so enthused to be a part of our respectful learning community!
I also have students who are Hmong and Hispanic. All of them are fairly new to the country. As a young educator, I am doing the best I can to support them and their learning needs.
Just last year, my school started a completely new ESL program. Therefore, we are still working on finding and collecting materials that suit our students' more diverse needs. We want these students, refugees and immigrants, to feel safe and supported.
Recently, one of my new Somali students was browsing for a book in our small classroom library when she exclaimed, “Miss! Come here! Come here!” Looking up, I saw her waving and pointing at a photo on the front of a box of books. As I moved closer, I saw that she was pointing to a photo of a Somali family on the label of the family-themed books. She was delighted because she thought they were all books about Somalia. Unfortunately, books that highlight the achievements of Somalia or include strong Somali characters are few and far between. My student’s enthusiasm was dampened.
You can see that my students want to see themselves represented in the books they are reading.
They want to learn more about themselves and where they come from. They want to read. There should not be a lack of materials that reflect the students’ lives. Diverse books will immediately engage the students and help them form connections between their lives and the characters in the books they are reading. The students need to know that their experiences matter.
Therefore, I have searched long and hard for quality multicultural books. I'm especially excited for the students to read "Roble and the Robot.” This STEAM book about a Somali family in midwest America will spark their creativity and interest in coding. I’m just as excited for “Dreamers,” by five-time Pura Belpré Award winner Yuyi Morales, because it’s a celebration of migrants and their families. You can help me bring these powerful stories into our EL reading and writing classroom.
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