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The United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants will be held on 19 September 2016 at the UNHQ in New York. The high-level meeting to address large movements of refugees and migrants is expected to endorse an Outcome Document that commits states to negotiating a ‘Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework’ and separately a ‘Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration,’ for adoption in 2018.
LEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used across the country in classrooms and libraries today.
Today we are featuring one of our most poignant and moving titles: Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan.This powerful story of young refugees fleeing war in Sudan was published in 2005 but remains extremely topical today, more than ten years later.
About the book: Eight-year-old Garang is tending cattle far from his family’s home in southern Sudan when war comes to his village. Frightened but unharmed, he returns to find everything has been destroyed.
Soon Garang meets other boys whose villages have been attacked. Before long they become a moving band of thousands, walking hundreds of miles seeking safety — first in Ethiopia and then in Kenya. The boys face numerous hardships and dangers along the way, but their faith and mutual support help keep the hope of finding a new home alive in their hearts.
Based on heartbreaking yet inspirational true events in the lives of the Lost Boys of Sudan, Brothers in Hope is a story of remarkable and enduring courage, and an amazing testament to the unyielding power of the human spirit.
Awards and Honors:
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Honor, American Library Association
Notable Children’s Book, American Library Association
Best Children’s Books of the Year: Outstanding Merit, Bank Street College of Education
Notable Books for a Global Society, International Literacy Association
Children’s Book Award Notable, International Literacy Association
Children’s Picks List, Booksense
Author Mary Williams is the founder of the Lost Boys Foundation, whose mission is to assist Sudan’s Lost Boys in attaining a college education. Of the Lost Boys she has met, Williams writes, “They have been neglected and endured severe hardship. Some of them saw their family and friends killed in front of them. They could be the most angry, bitter people you ever saw. But they aren’t. They are so motivated and eager to get jobs and go to school. I just knew I had to help them.”
The Leave vote in the EU referendum presents several potential challenges for employers which are of far more immediate and practical importance than speculation about the future direction of employment law in a post-EU environment.
And in case you missed it, here’s René Colato Laínez’s post about his experience being called an “illegal alien” when he was young.
To find out more about René Colato Laínez and Mamá the Alien/Mamá la extraterrestre, check out his blog and follow him on Twitter. And if you are a blogger interested in being included on this or future blog tours, please reach out to us at publicity [at] leeandlow [dot] com.
LEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year! To recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today and hear from the authors and illustrators.
Today, we are celebrating First Day in Grapes, an inspirational story for children of all backgrounds. Chico’s story of personal triumph and bravery in the face of bullying is a testament to the inner strength in us all.
Synopsis: All year long Chico and his family move up and down the state of California picking fruits and vegetables. Every September they pick grapes and Chico starts at a new school again. Often other children pick on him — maybe because he is always new or maybe because he speaks Spanish sometimes.
Chico’s first day in third grade turns out to be different. His teacher likes him right away, and she and his classmates are quick to recognize his excellent math skills. He may even get to go to the math fair! When the fourth-grade bullies confront Chico in the lunchroom, he responds wisely with strengths of his own.
Awards and Honors:
Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Honor, ALSC/REFORMA
Notable Children’s Book, Smithsonian
Choices, Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)
From the Illustrator:
“Stories that help kids become familiar with kids of other cultures or others in different situations are books that I like to illustrate. I appreciate the way the author put the main character in situations that kids deal with daily in real life and how the boy used his wits to get out of tough situations.
I related to the kid in this story in a wacky way when it came to avoiding bullies. When I was about nine years old there was a boy who picked on me daily, until one day I came up with an idea. I thought that if I walked by him making a face that he wouldn’t recognize me and leave me alone. The plan worked, but now that I think of it, I doubt it was because he didn’t recognize me.”
From Britain to the United States, France to Australia, Western states are struggling with an identity crisis: how to cultivate a common cultural ‘core’, a social ‘bond’, which goes beyond the global economy and political liberalism. It is too early to predict whether Brexit is the last gasp of the old structure of national identity, or its revival.
John Shropshire used to farm celery just in Poland. Why? Because celery production is labour intensive and Poland had abundant available labour. However, he now also farms in the Fens, Cambridgeshire. Why? Because the EU Single Market gives him access to the labour he needs. Not cheap labour – John pays the living wage to his workers – but available seasonal migrant workers from Central and Eastern Europe – 2500 of them.The strawberries enjoyed at Wimbledon are picked by similar labour, so are the hops in our British brewed beer.
LEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today!
Today we’re featuring Grandfather Countsby Andrea Cheng and illustrated by Ange Zheng, released in 2003 by LEE & LOW BOOKS:
About the Book: Grandfather Counts is a moving intergenerational story about the universal love between grandparent and grandchild, a love that bridges linguistic and cultural differences. In Grandfather Counts, Helen is excited to welcome her Gong Gong (grandfather), who comes from China to live with her family. But when she realizes that Gong Gong speaks only Chinese, Helen finds a special way to communicate.
Awards and Honors:
Reading Rainbow Selection, PBS Kids
Choices, Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Honor Book Award, Society ofSchool Librarians International
Parents’ Choice Noteworthy Product, Parents’ Choice Foundation
In the Author’s Own Words:
“Intergenerational stories come easily to me. When I was a child, three of my grandparents lived either in our house or within walking distance. I spent a lot of time with my paternal grandmother, and I think she is the model for many of the grandmothers in my stories. When my husband and I had children, I could not imagine raising them far from their grandparents, so we moved from Ithaca, New York to Cincinnati where my parents were living. My father died in 1997, but our children see my mother almost every day, and they spent a lot of time running back and forth between her house and ours when they were younger. Contact between generations is very important to me and seems to find its way into most of my stories.”
–(from an interview with Paper Tigers)
Book Activity: Use Grandfather Counts as an opportunity to celebrate the range of languages that students may speak at home. Ask students who are fluent in other languages to share with the class how to count in their languages.
Encourage older students to gather oral histories from grandparents or other relatives for an oral history project.
Did you know? If you look at the illustrations, you’ll notice that Grandfather Counts features a biracial main character. See all of our books featuring biracial and multiracial main characters.
I want to frame this picture book and hang it on my wall. To label Teacup as having bucket-loads of appeal for audiences familiar with and sympathetic to displacement, migration, social disruption and family change strips away the myriad of other sophisticated, elegant qualities this book deserves to be described by. It is simply sublime. […]
From time to time here on the LEE & LOW blog we like to shine a spotlight on organizations, companies, or projects that move us. Today we’re featuring a special project close to our heart: the Children in Crisis Project from REFORMA, the National Association To Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos.
Last year, over 70,000 unaccompanied children crossed the Southern border into the United States. This is a true humanitarian crisis, with many of these children ending up in detention centers, awaiting immigration processing or deportation. They have few or no personal belongings, don’t know English, and have been separated from their families with no sense of if or when they will be reunited.
Oralia Garza de Cortes, Lucía Gonzalez, and Patrick Sullivan are three longtime members of REFORMA who were moved to help. They implemented the Children in Crisis project to solicit donations, purchase, and deliver books and backpacks to the children in detention centers. In the first phase of the drive, they raised enough funds and donations to deliver 300 books to children in the McAllen Texas Centralized Processing Center, and they have since delivered several hundred more. Currently they are coordinating donations of backpacks that will contain books as well as paper, pencils, erasers, crayons and a writing journal for children to use in their journey toward their destination.
The project is a moving illustration of how librarians essentially serve as caretakers of their communities, bridging the gap between resources and the people who need them. “As the immigrant child that I was, I remember that first librarian taking me to the Spanish section with three or four Spanish books. I hope every child will find that librarian, like an oasis in a desert,” said Lucía Gonzalez.
When asked why they felt that librarians should have a role in outreach to these children, Oralia Garza de Cortes said, “We reached out as a humanitarian cause, just something so overwhelming that we really had to come together to do something.”
Patrick Sullivan added, “It’s also a counterbalance to some of those xenophobic Americans. The initial reception that some of these people received . . . was depressing and doesn’t show how we are as Americans. Librarians reach out to their communities every day and this was something we had to respond to. ”
The process for getting the books into children’s hands was a challenging one, given detention centers’ heavy regulation and policing. The group made contact with the border patrol, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and even contractors in order to find a way to deliver the books. “The books were welcome, but the problem was getting in touch with the right people,” said Sullivan. They were prohibited from entering the detention facilities themselves to deliver the books.
“This is just mega gyms full of people lying on mattresses on the floor and there’s just no space,” said Garza de Cortes. “They are in these freezing warehouses and have no idea what’s happening. If they had a good book, that would take them along on their journey.”
Although it would be an added effort, the group decided to include bookplates in each donated book, an idea that came from longtime REFORMA member Sandra Valderrama. “It was cumbersome, but to have the message in the book saying, ‘This is your book, and you’re free to take it wherever you want and it will give you light and be your companion,’ it was a very powerful message,” said Garza de Cortes.
Said Gonzalez, “For many of them this is the first book they own and it is a very unique experience.”
The group hopes the donated books will serve as the beginning, not the end, of children’s relationship with their libraries. “What we’d like to do is interject ourselves to those kids who will eventually end up in the United States,” said Sullivan. “There are contacts that can happen that go beyond just the books. We’re trying to convey the idea that libraries are these free open places with lots of information.”
“The families need guidance,” said Gonzalez. “If they don’t have a place like the public library, where are they going to go? How are they going to get this information?”
Garza de Cortes, Gonzalez, and Sullivan were named2015 Movers & Shakers by School Library Journal for their work. You can learn more about ways to help here.
LEE & LOW BOOKS has two writing contests for unpublished authors of color: the New Voices Award, for picture book manuscripts, and the New Visions Award, for middle grade and young adult manuscripts.Both contests, which are now open for submissions aim to recognize the diverse voices and talent among new authors of color who might otherwise remain under the radar of mainstream publishing.
In this guest post, we wanted to highlight another groundbreaking writing contest that’s bringing attention to marginalized voices and fostering a love of writing in students: the Celebrate America Writing Contest run by the American Immigration Council. Coming into its 19th year, the Celebrate America Writing Contest for fifth graders has been bringing attention to the contributions of immigrants in America through the eyes and pens of our youngest writers.
In this guest post, Claire Tesh, Senior Manager of Education at the American Immigration Council, discusses the mission of the Celebrate America Writing Contest and how it has helped to shape the immigration narrative.
It is impossible to escape the negative vitriol and hateful rhetoric around the issue of immigration that dominates the headlines, talk radio, popular culture, and in some cases the dinner table. In an effort to educate children and communities about the value of immigration to our society The American Immigration Council teams up with schools and community groups to provide young people the resources and information necessary to think critically about immigration from both a historical and contemporary perspective, while working collaboratively and learning about themselves and their communities.
The American Immigration Council developed “Celebrate America,” an annual national creative writing contest for fifth graders, because they are at the age where they are discovering their place in the world both locally and globally. They are also finding their own voice, opinions and ideas through writing, creating and sharing. Students at this age start making sense of current events; they have a better working knowledge of basic history, and have a sense of global awareness.
Thousands of Entries
“Celebrate America” began 19 years ago with just a couple dozen entries. Today it has grown to over 5,000 entries annually! Since 1997 a total of close to 75,000 students have participated in two dozen cities, in nearly 750 schools and community centers across the nation.
As the lead on the contest since 2006, I have read thousands of entries and have attended numerous events featuring the writers. It is difficult to pick just one example, but in 2008 the winning entry America is a Refuge really showed how much a 10-12 year old can comprehend about the issue. That year, the winner, Cameron Busby, explained to a reporter from the Tucson Citizen that “I want to be a horror writer when I grow up,” and in order to tell the story of America being a place people come to be safe and thrive, he used bits and pieces of some of his classmate’s true horror stories of their own or their family member’s immigration journeys. This excerpt shows the young writer’s entry and how he made sense of injustice and how America has always been a nation symbolic as a beacon for hope:
A small child holds out a hoping
a crumb of bread,
or even a penny just to be fed
Hoping America is a refuge. A
child weeps over her mother’s
the tears streaming down her
Praying America is a refuge.
Part of the reason why it’s a popular contest is because it fits neatly with the fifth grade curriculum and it is easy for teachers to implement by offering timely lessons and expository learning opportunities from classroom visits by experts to interactive web-based games. The contest is unique in that it allows for any written work that captures the essence of why the writer is proud that America is a nation of immigrants and students can express themselves through narrative, descriptive, expository, or persuasive writings, poetry, and other forms of written expressions. The teaching and learning opportunities the contest brings to both the classroom and the community has made it very popular and most teachers who participate do so year after year.In the Classroom
Monica Chun, a teacher from Seattle who has participated in the contest for several years and whose student, Erin Stark, was a national winner in 2013, starts the assignment by asking students to ask their relatives at home a question: “Who was the first person in our family to come to America?” No matter what ethnicity or how recent or distant a family’s arrival be, every student is going to have a unique answer to this question.
Involving the Community
”Celebrate America” encourages youth, families and surrounding communities to evaluate and appreciate the effects of immigration in their own lives. The unique contest includes the following components:
Immigration attorneys or trained volunteers visit classrooms, whether in person or virtually. The visitors give short presentations about the history of American immigration and the contributions immigrants have made over the years;
Teachers complement the contest by implementing lessons about immigration, social justice and diversity into their curriculum;
The American Immigration Council provides classrooms with innovative, relevant, and interactive lessons and resources;
Communities organize events, naturalization ceremonies and other celebrations to showcase the local winners;
The winning entry from each locale is sent to the national office and judged by well-known journalists, immigration judges and award winning authors;
The winning entry is read into the Congressional record, a flag is flown over the Capitol in the winner’s honor and the winner reads their entry at a 700+ person event that celebrates immigration; and
In the submissions the youth voice brings hope that there will be solutions to the immigration debate.
The American Immigration Council believes that teachers, parents, and students are essential to building a collective movement toward a better future: in our classrooms, in our schools, and in the larger society. With the community’s engagement, educators, parents and students can help bridge this divide and approach the issue of immigration with intelligence and empathy.
The contest has an impact not only in the schools and communities that participate, but also in the halls of Congress. Each year when the winning entry is read into the Congressional Record, it is rewarding to know that our leaders are hearing words of wisdom from a young person who has big ideas and who has chosen to use their voice to invite others to learn about immigration and to celebrate America’s diversity.
When the winning entries are read to new citizens at naturalization ceremonies or at dinner galas in communities of all sizes, almost every attendee has tears in their eyes because the young readers are speaking from their hearts and they represent the future. Each and every year the young writers continue to surprise us with the depth and empathy in their writings whether it is their common sense solutions to an immigration system or the story of their own immigrant background. Any writer, no matter how old and how experienced, should look at these entries to get a sense for authentic voice and various styles of writing. The thousands of students who submit to the contest get recognized in their communities and the affect is exponential because students start in the classroom and their voice continues to be shared within their schools, within their communities and beyond.
The students participating in “Celebrate America” are America’s future citizens, voters, educators and activists and it is truly an honor to shape the contest so that it provides some of the tools to think critically about immigration and to learn to explore the economic and moral effects of immigration policy as they engage in the public debates. But, today as we try to navigate the complicated maze that is immigration law and policy, it is through their incredible choice of words, that they are our guides, our teachers, and our voices of reason.
For further information on eligibility and submission process:
Surveys show that a high percentage of British citizens "feel British." But what exactly do people have in mind when they say this? People may think differently about this question, and perhaps it is also British to give various meanings to British identity. Still, can we define what it is to "feel" British? Or even what is un-British—be it a pattern of behavior, a belief, or a way of doing things?
The international response to the photographs of the dead body of three year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, washed ashore on a Turkish beach on 2 September 2015, has prompted intense debate. That debate has been not only about the proper attitude of Britain and other countries to the refugee crisis, but also about the proper place of strong emotions in political life.
In the late 1960s, an ugly little rhyme circulated in Britain’s declining industrial towns. At the time, seemingly unstoppable mass migration from Britain’s former colonies had triggered a succession of new laws aimed at restricting entry to Britain, followed by a new political emphasis on ‘race relations’ intended to quell international dismay and reduce internal racial tensions.
Want to inspire future poets, writers, and dreamers? One elementary school in San Francisco did just that with an author study of U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera.
Lorraine Orlandi, Community School Coordinator, shared with us the goals, preparation, and impact of their Latino Heritage Celebration.
With National Hispanic Heritage Month in the fall, Paul Revere School K-8 selected Juan Felipe Herrera to study and honor for Herrera’s activism and body of work, as well as his ties to San Francisco.
When do your school make time for artist studies?
“We have three major cultural celebrations each school year: for Latino heritage, African American heritage and Asian-Pacific Islander heritage. For each, we have an intensive artists residency of about six weeks to prepare students to perform in school-wide assemblies and at an evening event for the entire community.”
Why choose author Juan Felipe Herrera?
“We have struggled to connect the history and values being taught through these artists’ residencies with our day-to-day classroom teaching and learning. Juan Felipe Herrera’s work provided the perfect vehicle for our school, which includes a Spanish Immersion strand in addition to the general English strand. Students in all classes could access the work and it provided a unifying element for the learning and celebration. The project fit within our school-wide literacy goals. It was a breakthrough that we hope to be able to extend to all of our cultural celebrations in the future.”
What kind of work is involved for staff?
“Preparation included teacher training around materials — we bought a bunch of books, found videos and teaching guides online. Teachers had an opportunity to meet all together and in grade-level groups to discuss how to use the materials. As you know, some of the work was eventually posted for colleagues and families to see.”
How does the program pair the content with literacy?
“In our school-wide project for grades K-8, students across grade levels responded to the work of Juan Felipe Herrera as a way to learn about and celebrate Latino heritage and consider their own identities within our diverse school population. The books and poetry gave teachers wonderful tools for strengthening our commitment to using culturally responsive materials in the classroom, and to connect students’ learning to their own experiences.”
How do teachers incorporate Juan Felipe Herrera’s work into their curricula?
Two fifth-grade classes worked with a teaching artist to learn the poems “Laughing out Loud, I Fly” (Harper Collins) and the poem “(Vamonos La Kiva Casa Libre)” (from 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border, City Lights) and choreograph movements to the poems. They read the poems and performed the dances at the assemblies and evening event.
Our sixth-graders presented the poetry they had written in response to “Quien Quiere Correr Conmigo?”.
Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Specialist, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language for second through sixth grade in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in the Bay Area, CA as a Teach for America corps member where she became passionate about best practices for supporting English Language Learners and parent engagement. In her column for Lee & Low’s The Open Book blog, she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
With this family history behind me, questions of immigration are never far from my mind. I owe my existence to the generosity of the UK in taking in generations of refugees, as well as the kindness shown by one wealthy unmarried Christian woman – who agreed to foster my father for a few months until his parents arrived, but as that never happened, becoming his guardian until adulthood.
Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first a patron, the last a punisher.
An average of 30 percent of the British public have identified immigration as one of their most important concerns since 2003; in recent months, 50 per cent or more have named this as one of the most important issues facing the UK.
For centuries this question has haunted European thought, and as new fences are erected and bodies wash up on the shores of the Mediterranean its implications reassert themselves with renewed urgency. For over twenty years the outsourcing of migration controls has meant that European publics have been protected from the practical reality of forced displacement and the economic desperation that is now showing up on holiday beaches.
In this interview with The Open Book, guest blogger R. Joseph Rodríguez, Assistant Professor of Literacy and English Education at The University of Texas at El Paso, shares strategies on teaching Guadalupe García McCall’s novels in middle and high school English Language Arts, as well as discusses the impact of culturally responsive and relevant literature in the classroom.
What inspired you to write about GuadalupeGarcíaMcCall, her literature, and classroom applications?
Guadalupe García McCall’s writings create many connections and destinations in my life, crossing many geographies and memories across time—from my growing up to today. As I read her books, I travel in conversation with her characters.
In literature, we enact the elements of storytelling and literacy by becoming involved with all the facets that make a story readable, understandable, relatable, and enjoyable.
The worlds García McCall creates in her literary works mirror my childhood and journeys. Specifically, Piedras Negras, Coahuila, México, where García McCall was born, is the home of my maternal aunt Cristina, uncle Andrés, and cousins. While growing up, my parents, siblings, and I traveled from Houston to visit them.
Like in García McCall’s novels and poems, many families and cultures are before us—en vivo and in print—with storytellers and cuentos crossing the national grids of the U.S. and México borderlands.
For teachers interested in using Summer of the Mariposas and/or Under the Mesquite—what would you recommend they use the texts for? What part of curriculum? What could they pair this with—any literature or primary source documents?
The novel in verse Under the Mesquite meets various standards in English language arts that include poetry and various literary elements as well as other disciplines. The book presents an adolescent female who creates poetry and dramatic performances, supports her siblings as a caring problem solver, and seeks ways to keep her mother’s memory alive. The text can be paired with other novels in verse that feature characters with dilemmas and choices that lead to trials and triumphs.
Several primary sources can be considered such as the literary works within the novel, diaries and ballads with historical and personal accounts, and excerpts from classics and contemporary classics that feature first-person point of view such as A Good Long Way, American Ace, Brown Girl Dreaming, CrashBoomLove, My Own True Name, Locomotion, and Republic, among others.
As teachers, we can welcome diverse voices in our classrooms and students’ lives by allowing characters to move from the page to other media: performing and visual arts. Reading García McCall’s novels and poetry remind us of the varied stories we carry with our families and in our interior—alive and in memory.
We carry these stories beyond our own biological families to the literary characters and families we meet through the mirrors, windows, and doors of their lives created by our author and medium García McCall and our very own lives. Student can write about these memories with an image that launches the conversation to a recording that can create a collage of storytelling with varied techniques and improvisation for the classroom stage.
There are no required texts for the Common Core State Standards, but we still see that schools and districts can be shy to branch out from more classic texts (“classics” as in texts that seem to appear in every high school year in year out as well as many that are Caucasian and European American literary canon). Why do you think that is? What can teachers do to include more contemporary and/or culturally responsive and relevant texts with limited time and flexibility in the year and curriculum?
Becoming aware of the civic communities that border our schools, the cultural resources and references that inform ideas and decisions, and students’ everyday resilience are key insights to create community through literature and even transport readers to other places in time, to the present, and toward the future.
As teachers, we can also plan literary experiences that create dialogue across borders, cultures, and migrations. Our lessons can reflect adventure, drama, choice, conflict, dilemma, and triumph experienced by characters through literature from diverse experiences, places, and realities. This requires deliberate planning with concepts and competencies for culturally responsive and sustaining instruction that places classics and contemporary classics in dialogue with deeper learning, thinking, and questioning.
Lastly, through the guidance of their teachers, many students are book borrowers who experience libraries in classrooms, schools, homes, and civic communities. As a result, students are permitted self-selection of both print books and e-books.
Is it enough to select a “culturally responsive” book for the curriculum? What does culturally responsive and relevant instruction look like? How can high school teachers make the whole process from book selection, introduction, instruction, and student work/output culturally responsive and relevant?
When I found García McCall’s novels, which were recommended by Pat Mora, I heard the familiar voices come alive and the stories speak to me from the print and digital pages of our national and binational literary canons. Culture is really about imagination and knowledge and how these sustain us as communities. Thus, as teachers we must be in conversation with our teaching colleagues as well as readers who are among us: our students, their families, librarians, and critics.
There are several book awards that can inform our literary selection and introduction. For instruction and student work, we can rely on resources from the American Library Association, Edutopia, ReadWriteThink.org, and publications from ILA and NCTE. Moreover, the process for selecting a book can take into consideration teaching standards and student learning outcomes that promote growth with interdisciplinary thinking and learning.
Teachers interested in the inclusion of diverse literary traditions understand the role of reading, writing, authorship, and representation in the literacy classroom. The research informs us that students seek literary characters and favor reading and writing experiences that reflect their life choices and questions in both public and private spaces. These choices and questions can be explored through both classics and contemporary classics.
What is at stake if educators do not include culturally responsive and relevant works like GarcíaMcCall in middle and high school classrooms?
What is at stake here is our democracy and shared efforts for global world understanding. Like García McCall and her characters reveal, we barter through world languages and literature. As a result, we have examples of human cultures meeting and sharing in the making of civilizations, languages, and stories. My earliest memories of family gatherings reflect bilingualism and biculturalism with biliteracies bringing us the warmth and energy to express ourselves so freely and with laughter and occasionally some of life’s sorrows.
Partly driven by fear and also by limited access to print and marketing, diverse voices were missing in textbooks and shelves across the country. This is changing as the U.S. mirrors more who its inhabitants have been: a country of diverse citizens with shared values about literacy and learning. We cannot succumb to fear with non-publication and non-participation if we are to keep our reading public alive for democracy to survive.
I remember the great importance placed on attendance in my schooling. In retrospect, many went uncounted and unaccounted for in my schooling: the literary characters who could forge new ways of seeing, reading, and interpreting adolescent life and thought, yet remained absent. That need not happen any longer as we rethink language arts and literacy education. Our teaching profession calls us to be committed to social change, reflection, and action by bringing more literacy opportunities into the lives of our students—of all ages, abilities, backgrounds, colors, and reading interests—and their diverse communities.
Joseph Rodríguez is Assistant Professor of Literacy and English Education at The University of Texas at El Paso, located on the border across from Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México. His research interests include children’s and young adult literatures, socially responsible biliteracies, and academic writing. Catch him virtually @escribescribe or via email: email@example.com.
The precarious humanitarian situation at Europe's borders is creating what seems to be an irresolvable tension between the interests of European states to seal off their borders and the respect for fundamental human rights. Frontex, EU's External Border Control Agency, in particular has been since its inception in 2004 embroiled in a fair amount of public controversy.
Information now moves at a much greater speed than migrants. In earlier eras, the arrival of refugees in flight was often the first indication that grave human rights abuses were underway in distant parts of the world.
Over the past several months, a quiet battle has been raging among librarians and politicians over the term “illegal alien.” For many years, immigrant rights activists have argued against using the term, which has taken on a decidedly pejorative meaning. Activists and legal experts note that while actions can be “illegal,” human beings cannot – to refer to them as such criminalizes existence itself.
While several news outlets have pledged to cease using the term “illegal alien,” there’s one place where the term still stands: the Library of Congress. But while subject headings don’t usually claim a lot of media attention or political interest, the Library of Congress has become a battleground for those who want to replace the term, and for those who won’t give it up. Here’s a timeline of the issue (for more detail, check out this excellent Library Journal piece):
Dartmouth College student Melissa Padilla notices problematic search terms while researching a paper. Padilla and classmates bring the issue up with Dartmouth’s librarians, and discover that the search terms come from the Library of Congress and cannot be changed within Dartmouth’s libraries. Together, librarians and students work on a proposal asking the Library of Congress to replace the term “illegal alien” with “undocumented immigrant.” The proposal is submitted in summer 2014.
After consulting with staff members, the Library of Congress releases a public memo stating that it will not change the wording because the phrase “Undocumented immigrant” is not directly synonymous with “Illegal alien.” Word spreads to members of the American Library Association, who decide to work through the system to try to push the change through.
Various divisions and affiliates of the ALA, including the subject analysis committee, social responsibilities roundtable, and REFORMA, formulate a resolution asking the Library of Congress to reconsider the original request. The resolution passes at the ALA midwinter meeting in January 2016.
The Library of Congress announces that it will no longer use “illegal aliens” as a bibliographic term, saying that the once common phrase has become offensive. The library plans to use “noncitizens” in place of “aliens” and “unauthorized immigration” in place of “illegal immigration.”
After learning of the change, conservative Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee introduce a provision calling for the term’s reinstatement, which is tied to a bill for Library of Congress funding. They argue that the term is legally accurate and should not be changed for the sake of political correctness.
The House votes 237-170 to order the Library of Congress to continue using the term “illegal alien.” This is the first time in history that the House has interfered in the Library of Congress’ subject headings processes.
As a company that values diversity, this is an issue that we feel deeply invested in. Those of us who love books know well how powerful just one word can be. When that word is tied to our identity, it can not only define us but also define how others see us. It can make us feel safe, or endangered. It can make us feel proud, or ashamed. We believe that the term “illegal alien” is derogative and has no place in the Library of Congress. To see it politicized- and especially to see the power of decision taken away from expert librarians and placed in the hands of politicians- is disheartening and alarming.
In the meantime, the Library of Congress has posted a survey where the public can share their thoughts on the proposed changes. If you would like to see the terminology changed, you can fill out this survey through July 20.
From the US presidential candidates to the current situation in Europe, immigration is a hot topic. In our last blog post, we looked at the battle that’s currently going on in the Library of Congress over the term “illegal alien.” Many activists argue that the term is outdated, yet the Library of Congress chose to let it stand. In this guest post, Children’s Book Press author René Colato Laínez talks about his own experiences coming to the US from El Salvador and the label “illegal alien.”
At the 2016 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting, librarians passed a resolution urging the Library of Congress to change the subject heading from “Illegal Aliens” to “Undocumented Immigrants.” As the author of the new picture book, Mamá the Alien/ Mamá la extraterrestre, I totally agree. Undocumented Immigrants is a better subject to describe the people who arrived from other countries to live and work in the United States. They are undocumented because they don’t have the right papers to come to this country via an airport or through a border checkpoint entrance. They are also immigrants because they were born in another country. So the term Undocumented Immigrant fits the status of this group of people.
The term “Illegal Aliens” definitely is confusing to many, just like it was to me. Yes, I was an Undocumented Immigrant, and when I arrived in this country, I was called an “Illegal Alien.”
Since I was a small child in my native country of El Salvador, I was taught by my family and teachers that I needed to be a good boy. Especially during that time! There was a civil war in my country. Teachers and priests had been killed and many people would disappear from one day to the next. It was a scary time to grow up, and I always tried to be a good boy.
One afternoon, my fifth grade teacher said, “Soon, you will be teenagers and you have to know that ‘illegal acts’ only take people to jail or the cemetery. You need to do only ‘legal things’ in order to be safe.” Then he asked the class to make a list of “illegal acts” and to write a promise that we would be good citizens to have a better society. In my list I included among other things that using drugs, stealing, and not following the rules were illegal acts. Then I proudly promised never to do anything illegal.
As a result of the civil war in the 1980’s, many Salvadoran families left the country looking for a better life and opportunities. My family was not the exception. My mother left the country at the beginning of the war. In 1985 it was my turn to come the United States.
Soon after I arrived, some children in my new school called all the children who only spoke Spanish “illegals.” I did not understand why they were calling us “illegals.” I asked my father and he explained to me that they called us that because we did not have the right papers to come in an airplane or through the bridge in Tijuana.
I began to understand the term, but it did not make sense to me. In my country only people who had money were able to get papers to come to the United States. Poor people like my family did not have the privilege to get these documents. I did not understand why it was illegal to escape a civil war to look for a better life and opportunities in a country that was safe from war.
As I learned English, I remember our social studies teacher asked us to read the newspapers to write class reports. It was there when I first encountered the term “Illegal Aliens.” I kept reading the article and discovered that people who arrived to this country without the right papers were not only illegals, but were aliens too.
Every night, after I saw the movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, I remember looking at the stars wondering if there was life on another planet. It was the 1980’s and, like everyone, I loved that little alien who wanted to go home. When I saw the stars, I wondered if there were aliens like E.T. and how it would feel to be lost on another planet.
Imagine my surprise to learn that I was also an “alien” and that “aliens” were not only from outer space, but from other countries, too. The word “alien” could have more than one meaning—it was also a synonym for foreigner. But when I looked at both words, even though foreigner was a longer word and harder to pronounce in English, it sounded much better to me than alien. I touched my hands and looked at my face in the mirror. Yes, I spoke another language but I had a face, arms and body just like the other children at school. I did not look like a strange creature from out of space. But being an alien implied that I could not be like other “normal” persons, because I was so different from them.
Years later, thanks to the Amnesty Program in 1989, my family had the opportunity to obtain the right papers to live and work in the United States. When I got my pink resident card, I read the blue words at the top of the card: “RESIDENT ALIEN.” “Wow,” I said to myself, “I am now a resident, but I am still an alien!”
I became a teacher and I was assigned to a bilingual kindergarten/first grade classroom. All of my students spoke Spanish. Many of them were born in the United States and others were like me, from other countries. My goal as a teacher was to teach them to read and write, but also to teach them to be smart children who are proud to be bilingual. In the country where I grew up— and almost everywhere around the world!—speaking other languages and being bilingual is nothing to be ashamed of. Instead, it is a wonderful achievement.
My goal as a children’s books author is to produce strong multicultural children’s literature; stories where minority children are portrayed in a positive way, where they see themselves as heroes, and where they dream and hope for the future. I wanted to write authentic stories of Latin American children living in the United States.
These were the books that I had wanted to read when children called me “Illegal” at school.
In 2016, my newest picture book Mamá the Alien/ Mamá la extraterrestre will be published by Lee & Low Books. In the story, Sofía discovers a Big Secret. She finds a card that belongs to her mother. It has mamá’s picture and the word alien on top of the card. Sofía cannot believe it. Her mother is an alien.
Sofía feels just like me when I discovered that I was also an alien. I am excited that Mamá the Alien/ Mamá la extraterrestre will soon be in the hands of parents, teachers, librarians and children. In this book readers will find out in a humoristic way that we are all children of planet earth. There are no aliens among our families. We can be from different countries but are all human beings.
Come meet René Colato Laínez at ALA this year. He will be signing with LEE & LOW (Booth #1469), as well as participating in a REFORMA panel on bilingual books. You can see our full ALA schedule here.
About René Colato Laínez
Known as “the teacher full of stories,” René Colato Laínez is the Salvadoran author of more than a dozen picture books including ¡Vámonos! Let’s Go! (illustrated by Joe Cepeda, Holiday House), Señor Pancho Had a Rancho (illustrated by Elwood Smith, Holiday House), and The Tooth Fairy Meets El Raton Pérez, (illustrated by Tom Lintern, Random House). His new picture book, Mamá the Alien/ Mamá la extraterrestre (illustrated by Laura Lacamara) will be available this summer.
In 2015, René was awarded the Premios Actitud El Salvador Award. He has received many awards and honors including International Latino Book Award, The Américas Award Commended Title, International Reading Association Teacher’s Choice Award, and Tejas Star Book Award List.
René is a graduate of the Vermont College MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults and a faculty member of Sandra Cisneros Macondo Writers Group. He is a bilingual elementary teacher at Fernangeles Elementary School, one of Los Angeles Unified School District’s most innovative schools. He is also a columnist for LA BLOGA, the Latino literature blog and LOS BLOGUITOS the blog for children learning to speak Spanish. He has appeared on Univision and Telemundo, and is a regular participant at conferences and book festivals in the United States and Latin America.
Every few months, a new report announces the breakdown of the British immigration system. In January, the Committee of Public Accounts issued a searing review of the Home Office’s migration policy. Three months earlier, the National Audit Office released a near-identical critique.