MONROE and FAIRMOUNT ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS ~ San Francisco, California, USA
Both schools have a Spanish Immersion program up to 5th grade. These classes are a mix of English dominant and Spanish dominant students, each learning the other's language. Most of the Latino children within these programs are children of recent immigrants if not immigrants themselves. Fairmount has all Spanish immersion classes up to 4th grade, and next year the whole school will be Full Immersion, as well ashaving a Chinese Bilingual program and an English Language Development (ELD) strand.
Both schools are diverse, both ethnically and economically, as well as in terms of languages. Both schools have active PTAs and ELAC (English Learner Advisory Council) parent groups for non-English-speaking parents.
Feedback was submitted by Library Media Teacher, Winnie J. Porter:
All my classes from Kinder to Fifth Grade (ages 5-10) enjoyed Biblioburro. It is hard however for kids to fully understand the idea of poverty, a village being remote, how hard it would be to travel on a burro carrying books through the mountains. For this reason, I showed the students clips of the real Luis that I found on the internet. Once I showed them these clips, their compassion came forth. It is hard for our students, who have access to so many books, to understand that other people don't: that is the point that I was trying so hard to get them to understand. Even our poorest kids can always go to their public libraries to borrow books. The concept of not being able to hold a book is very foreign to them and definitely came up in the conversations. We also talked about the concept of what type of person is a hero. Some of the kids (the most privileged) did not see Luis as a hero, while others did.
A funny note: one little first grade student was the first to notice that the bandit was sitting under a tree reading the stolen book. After that, either I or another student pointed it out. The kids loved that part!
I also read Rain School to a variety of ages. They all loved the book. I showed them a map of Africa to see where Chad is. It was a great tool for discussing the fact that Africa is not a country but a continent, sadly a point that many of our students don't understand: so we spent some time talking about that - different countries, different languages, customs, foods. I appreciated the opportunity to point this out to the students as most of them see Africa as being homogenous.
Various themes came up throughout the readings. I had to look up what a monsoon really is monsoon and try explaining it to the kids. Of course, they were all fascinated by the fact that these kids had to build their own school. They also liked the idea of all the kids walking to school together, with the older kids leading the way. We had great conversations about all the different ways they all got to school. They had tons of questions about the multi-age classroom, including:
How does that work?
Aren't the older kids bored?
What about kids that could read well being with kids that had not learned to read yet?
During one particular fifth grade time, we got into an intense discussion about how much we have in our schools, and the kids in the book not having materials, books, maps etc. The discussion turned when one child made the comment that if we here in the US have so much in our schools, why are we always complaining that we don't have enough, and why are we always trying to pass laws to give the schools more? I wish I had more time with the students to get deeper into these ideas.
The last book, A Child's Garden, I only read to 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classes (ages 7-10). This was the favorite of the older kids. I prefaced it by asking them what they thought the "author's purpose" was in writing this book. Of course, they were disappointed that more details were not provided and they wanted more. We talked about what country this could be happening in. With older kids, I would have pushed for them to think about this happening in our own country: a great way to discuss immigration, our marginalized citizens, what the wall symbolizes...
Some students were very sophisticated in their thinking; others were very limited by their skills in English. They were particularly angry with the soldiers. They also commented as to why the two kids did not talk to each other. I had to take time to introduce some of the vocabulary words (tendrils, ditch etc.). This book could certainly be used to teach a whole unit on various subjects: immigration, environment, class struggle, survival, hope...
With all three books, I had to introduce vocabulary words prior to reading the stories so that our English learners could comprehend. Biblioburro and Rain School had great pictures that helped with comprehension. I would have liked to have had a projector so that all the kids could see the pictures clearly. It takes extra time to introduce the vocabulary and explain it to the kids. A Child’s Garden was much more challenging with the vocabulary and the abstract concepts. Luckily, I am bilingual in Spanish, so that helped in explaining to the Spanish speakers; I wonder just how much our Chinese students were able to grasp from the story.Thank you once again for these wonderful books. The kids are checking them out of the library like crazy. They still check out the books from last year.
Feedback was submitted by Library Media Teacher, Winnie J. Porter:
Two books were a HUGE hit, One Hen and First Come the Zebra.
With One Hen, the kids want MORE… They want to know how much of this story is true, and what has happened since the story was written They loved the idea of the domino effect of helping each other, and related it to their own classrooms and how things work better when they all pitch in. I read this book to 3rd, 4th and 5th graders.
I believe that First Come the Zebra was a huge hit, because the kids can relate to the happenings in the books, especially the conflict between the two boys. They were full of questions and, of course, gave personal anecdotes of times when they were in those situations… I was able to read this book to 1st through 5th graders.
I used both these books to bring attention to African American History Month. They are not your typical books used during February [Black History Month in the US], and I welcomed having something alternative to the more usual choices. Particularly while reading One Hen, we talked lots about the idea of community, a village, helping one another. We were able to compare that type of philosophy to our dominant culture here in the US which focuses basically on the individual and individual rights.
With First Come the Zebra we talked about how animals are not greedy, how they take only what they need… life cycles… co-habitation… conflict resolution… We tied the friendship of the two boys to the teachings of Martin Luther King.
Both books are constantly being checked out of the library. Kids tell me they like sharing them with their families.