My love for the Latino children came from a visit to an elementary school that hosts all English Language Learning (ELL) students in my community. The ELL students are all in one school because of limited resources, such as translators. Teachers and staff have great love for these children. The visit to the school on that November day became a day of great knowing for me. I learned many of these children come to us with little or no English language and are lost throughout the day. By no fault of their own, they spend their days detached and alone.
In the classrooms, the English-speaking children worked to sooth the ELL students, often taking them by the hand when the class moved from one part of the room to another. It was so sweet to see how everyone worked to help the Latino children. Of course, young children do not understand to be prejudice or to be unkind to those who are different from them. That is an unfortunate learning from the adults in their world. I also learned that many parents of the ELL students have no English-speaking skills as well. Sometimes, older children who have been in our country for a while, act as the translator for the parents.
That evening at home, I couldn’t sleep thinking about the day. I related it to when I would visit nail salons and the staff spoke in a language I did not understand. That is very intimidating and made me feel like an outsider. But I would leave the nail salon after a short visit. The ELL children spend their school day, every day feeling this disconnect. In fact, their entire lives where like this. It brought me to tears. Then, I decided to do something.
I contacted the teachers at the school asking for help to find a translator for The Little Big Car, our counting book. My thinking was I could have it translated to Spanish, but include both English and Spanish on each page. Then, the children could teach each, and the school teachers would have dialogue in Spanish to use in the classroom. Furthermore, the Latino parents would have a book with both languages. I also changed our My Story book into a Spanish version, Mi Cuento, to honor the Spanish speaking children I visit. My Story book is used as a tool to teach children how to be an author.
Six months later, with the help of our school district’s translator Mrs. Penny Marks, I had our book, The Little Big Car translated to Spanish: El Pequeno Coche Grande. The school was so thrilled about the creation of this book, they raised enough money to gift each ELL student with a book and toy on the last day of school! I had the privilege of handing out the books along with my child care children. There was a news story written in our local paper. It was one of the best days of my life.
Also, this inspired us to learn Spanish personally and in our child care! “Estoy aprendiendo Espanol.” We are learning by using simple words and phrases we say to one another every day. It’s great fun and the children and I are getting pretty good.
The next project I have is to have The Story of Sister Sun and Sister Moon as a bilingual book. It is translated but it just needs to have the Spanish verses added to the existing book. One of my goals in 2019 is to have La Historia de Hermana Sol y Hermana Luna in print and available for our dear English Language Learners.