Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What Diverse Books Will Your Students Read?

On September 17th  the American Immigration Council co-hosted a tweet chat with multicultural children’s book publisher LEE & LOW BOOKS. We discussed the hows and whys of building diverse libraries with educators, librarians, school professionals and enthusiastic readers from across the nation. We learned of new titles, shared free resources to bolster a classroom library, and importantly talked about ways to resist stereotypes and to support learning in diverse and non-diverse environments.

As the U.S. immigrant student population grows, the need to cultivate diverse libraries, ones that are reflective of all students and various immigration experiences is ever more prescient. By 2050, one in three children under the age of 18 will be either an immigrant or the child of an immigrant.

Our conversation was rich and we want to share what we learned with you. We’ve highlighted a few resources below and we encourage you to read the archived tweet chat for more details.  Please continue to use the hashtag #diverselit to add your voice to this ongoing conversation and tweet us @ThnkImmigration.  

Click here to read the entire archived tweet chat on Storify.

Click here to read our list of immigration-themed books for all ages.

Click here to read LEE & LOW BOOKS titles and resources.

Recommended Websites

American Indians in Children's Literature A website by the American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL) that provides critical perspectives and analysis of indigenous peoples in children's and young adult books, the school curriculum, popular culture, and society.

Annette.Gilbert A Literacy K-8 Teaching Blog that offers practical teaching resources for teaching about immigration and diversity.

Disability in Kid Lit A website dedicated to discussing the portrayal of disability in middle grade and young adult literature.

One World: Teens on Writing. Teens on Culture.  A website and project developed by middle school English teacher Brian Kelley where students host a podcast discusses diverse reads and share student writing from around the world. Your student submissions are encouraged.

Reading While White a blog created by a group of white librarians who strive to confront racism in the field of children’s and young adult literature

Recommended Books

Angela's Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt
Behind the Mountain by Edwidge Danticat
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Colour of Home by Mary Hoffman
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Dreaming in Indian by Lisa Charleyboy
From Somalia with Love by Na'ima Robert
How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitch
Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith, Ying-Hwa Hu
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Knots on Counting Rope by Bill J. Martin and John Archambault
My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
The People Shall Continue by Simon J. Ortiz
Pocho by Jose Antonio Villarreal
Poems in the Attic by Nikki Grimes
Tia Isa Wants a Car by Meg Medina
The Wall by Peter Sis

Recommended Articles & Video

The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, is a recommended “must-see” TED Talk by several participants. We developed a companion lesson for her TED Talk that can enhance the reading of diverse literature in the high school classroom and lends itself to a discussion on the benefits of diversity.

Where to Find Diverse Books” (WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS)

Rewriting History: American Indians,Europeans, and an Oak Tree” by Allie Jane Bruce, diagrams a lesson on resisting stereotypes in a picture book.

Support Diversity and Encourage Young Writers by Using Window and Mirror Books in Your Writing Workshop” by Stacey Shubitz, lists 15 favorite picture books to use as models for students writing.

Stay Connected!

The American Immigration Council offers free lesson plans, resources, book/film reviews, and grants to teach immigration. We also welcome teacher and student book reviews and contributions to our blog. Email us at teacher@immcouncil.org and follow us on twitter @ThnkImmigration.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Student-Centered, Story-Driven Community Grants Awarded to Deserving Teachers

The American Immigration Council is proud to announce the winners of the 2015-2016 Community Grants Program. The grant program is an initiative to provide educators and/or community organizers with the resources they need to implement a successful immigration curriculum or community-based project.

This year’s winners have developed student-centered storytelling projects that engage students and families in writing and sharing immigration stories, past and present, while also demonstrating the important and varied contributions of immigrants to our country. The awardees are Eldridge Park School, Lawrenceville, NJ and Charles F. Patton Middle School, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. 

According to Eldridge Park English Language Learner teacher Angeline Sturgis, “my objective in this project is to create a legacy for family members which clearly documents the motives, decision-making, action, and often bravery, that led to their arrival in this country, and the beginning of their lives as new Americans. I have realized that these stories go untold, especially to children, and believe that they can and should be recorded in some way. My idea combines the parents' stories with the artwork of their children for a truly cooperative effort that will be received by the community with awe and pride.” The intended result of Ms. Sturgis’s grant project, “Telling the Family Story,” will be a small library of student and parent authored books that can be shared among school and community members.  She also hopes to host an author reading.

The focus of “One World,” a project developed by middle school English Language Arts teacher Brian Kelley, is a student-centered and student-run classroom podcast modeled after Garrison Keillor’s podcast “The Writer’s Almanac.” These short podcasts would feature students discussing writing, books, immigrant family heritage and culture with an aim to exploring how culture influences youth and writers. Each podcast would also feature student writing. Eventually, Kelley has plans to see his students spreading the word about the podcast via social media and encouraging students from all over to send in their writing and to promote deeper discussions on culture and immigration. You can follow the project twitter account @Write1World  and visit the One World website which welcomes teens to submit essays, poetry, & short stories focused on family, culture, or heritage. 

Kelley has previously collaborated with the American Immigration Council providing accounts of his experience teaching digital storytelling on immigrant family heritage with students. To read his teaching tips, please click here.

Senior Manager of Education Claire Tesh, says, “Our grant program rewards classroom teachers and community leaders who have innovative ideas in integrating immigration issues into their teaching. In return, the American Immigration Council shares their results with the greater public through lesson plans, multimedia and other projects.”  Please join us in celebrating these two noteworthy projects and stay tuned as we follow their developments in the classroom.

For over the past decade, the American Immigration Council has been providing educators with funding for projects that support its mission of promoting the benefits of immigrants to our nation. This collaboration with motivated educators across the nation engages students and communities in thoughtful dialogues centered on the issue of immigration and multiculturalism. 

Please share this post with fellow educators to spread the word about the great work of these teachers.  To learn more about our 2015-2016 grant programs and resources, including how to apply, please click here. Our next deadline is November 5, 2015. Congratulations to our deserving and inspirational teachers!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Addressing Concerns for Some Immigrant Students

As teachers and school professionals, we know this time of year for you is busy and exciting. From setting up your classrooms, to greeting students and their families, to finalizing lesson plans and working with colleagues, it can be overwhelming. We encourage you to read our “Welcoming Immigrant Students in the Classroom” article published on Edutopia which offers some streamlined tips and best practices for creating an inclusive, positive environment for these students.

We also know that you are a trusted guide for students, and in particular, some of your more recently immigrated students may share questions and concerns with you that you may feel like you need more information to address. These concerns may require extra support perhaps requiring students to seek mental health counseling and legal assistance.

One thing to remember is that all students, regardless of immigration status, are guaranteed by law a right to a free public education under the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision Plyer v. Doe. The U.S. Department of Education issued a fact sheet for schools on educational services for immigrant students and those recently arrived in the U.S., and together with the Department of Justice, published a joint guidance letter , fact sheet and Questions and Answers reminding school districts of their federal obligation to educate all students residing in their respective district and how to enroll them.  A student’s immigration status isn’t something that teachers can or should inquire about and school staff are prohibited by federal law from taking action that may intimidate or “chill” immigrant students from attending school. 

With regard to individual legal issues of immigration that a student may choose to share with you, you can refer them to two helpful websites: www.ailalawyer.com and www.immigrationlawhelp.org to find a reputable attorney who can address their concerns. If you know a student is seeking asylum, you can also give them the number to the National Asylum Help Line at 612-746-4674 from 9AM-4PM Monday through Friday. This hotline helps asylum seekers find free legal services and immigration attorneys near them.

If you would like more information on this topic, please send us an email with the subject line “Educator Understandings” at teacher@immcouncil.org and we will send it to you directly.

We wish you the best as you start your school year – and please do take advantage of our free lesson plans and resources to teach about immigration critically and thoughtfully with all students!

Also, check out our latest lesson plan “Analyzing Immigrant Contributions through Data, Story, and Voice” for high school students and participate in our #diverselit tweet chat on building a diverse library tonight at 7:30pm EST. Please use the hashtag #diverselit. We at @ThnkImmigration would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

There Are At Least 187 Reasons to Read Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera’s 187 Reasons Mexicans Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007 is meant to be political and personal, provocative and soothing, historical and imaginative. Covering 36 years of Herrera’s creative work, this book is as much a hybrid of genres, languages, and styles as it is a blend of Mexican-American cultures and identities. It asks the question of what it means to be Mexican as it also asks what it means to be American. The physical and cultural borders of ethnic identity explored in this work offer multiple representations of individual and collective Mexican-American identities. In particular, the selected poems can be a wonderful tool for helping provide a historical context for older students as they examine current immigration issues in the media.

The title of Herrera’s work is a response to California’s Proposition 187, which was passed in 1994 but was later struck down by the Courts. The law sought to deny unauthorized immigrants social services, health care and public education. (Of note, unauthorized immigrants are not eligible for health care under the Affordable Care Act). The title poem uses Herrera’s characteristic anaphora and litany to illustrate the often arbitrary and illogical reasons used to prevent Mexicans from entering the U.S. both physically and culturally with the irony being that they are a part of American culture and identity already. Herrera relies on this irony as well as humor, wit, and historical context to make his statements as the ending excerpted from his “187 Reasons” demonstrates:

          Because we won’t nationalize a State of Immigration Paranoia
          Because the depression of the 30s was our fault
          Because “xenophobia” is a politically correct term
          Because we shoulda learn from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882
          Because we shoulda listened to the Federal Immigration Laws of 1917, ’21, ’24, and ’30
          Because we lack a Nordic/Teutonic approach
          Because Executive Order 9066 of 1942 shudda had us too
          Because Operation Wetback took care of us in the ‘50s
          Because Operation Clean Sweep picked up the loose ends in the ‘70s
          Because one more operation will finish us off anyway
          Because you can’t deport 12 million migrantes in a Greyhound bus
          Because we got his this about walking out of everything
          Because we have a heart that sings rancheras and feet that polka

In other sections, Herrera delves into the lived experiences of individual Mexicans and Mexican Americans. In one poem, “Senorita X: Song for the Yellow-Robed Girl in Juarez,” he commemorates the mothers who have not given up seeking answers to the deaths of their daughters in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Though the homicide rate has decreased, at the height of cartel violence in 2010, the city averaged 8.5 killings per day. The killers remain unidentified. Many of the victims worked in low wage factory positions or were students. The poem is as much elegy to them as it is a type of historical documentation that humanizes tragedy and seeks to understand loss. Though it starts abstractly “Yellow-robed girl/Yellow-book schoolgirl/ Yellow horn-rimmed glasses gazing girl,” the poem moves to naming some of the individuals lost as seen in the lines “Who’s the killer Brenda Bernice Delgado?/Who’s the killer Alma Chavira?” This movement invites the reader to see the women not as statistics of violence, but as individuals. The poem rescues their lives from anonymity while highlighting the horrific acts of violence that ended them. Using such a poem with older students encourages them to look deeper into the individual lives rather than headlines.

While there are poems of witness, history, and ethnic identity, there are also narratives, photographs, journal entries, and prose poems that comprise this hybrid collection. In this layered body of work, Herrera is able to transgress multiple boundaries: the urban, youthful, and modern with the agricultural and folkloric traditions. At its best, it makes a reader question the borders of Mexican, American, and Mexican-American identities, highlighting similarities and differences, fair and unfair divisions among them, much of which is related to immigration laws and policies. As the current Poet Laureate, this book is simply one of his finest.

Additional Resources

About Juan Felipe Herrera:
About Applications for the Classroom:
  • September is Hispanic Heritage Month and reading Herrera’s poetry is a perfect way to celebrate. If you are using with this book with older students, we suggest selecting one or two poems such as “187 Reasons,” “Senorita X,” or “Mexican Differences Mexican Similarities.” This poem would also pair well with our lesson on Cesar Chavez.
  • If you teach younger students, Herrera has written several children’s books that introduce students to migrant farmworker experience as well as to writing. Read our previous blog post reviewing some of his works for younger readers.
  •  One of Herrera’s influences was the poet Allen Ginsburg who is known for his long, list-making poems and was also the son of an immigrant. Ask students to write a list-making poem of identity as they define in their own words. Have students make personal and collective, historical and current connections in their poem like Herrera.
Want to learn more about building a diverse library?

Join us on twitter this Thursday, September 17th from 7:30pm-8:30pm EST for a #diverselit tweet chat. Together with LEE & LOW BOOKS, the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the country, we will be exploring the how and why of building diverse libraries using hashtag #diverselit. We hope to have your voice (or tweets) included in this conversation! Please help us spread the word with this digital flyer and follow us @ThnkImmigration.