4.23.2008

Traveling Life 5

So, is TxLA exciting every year or what? This year I had a presentation to attend to, an entire hour and twenty minutes all to myself, and I'll tell you what, though my students and my wife would both state rather emphatically that I usually have to trouble talking for that long, and longer, I was still iffy. I mean, this talk (titled, by the way, "The Bilingual Book Club: Bringing Parents into the Literary Mix" and sponsored by the Children's Round Table (thanks to Elva Garza of Austin for her kind introduction), the Texas Association of School Librarians, and Young Adult Round Table (otherwise known as YART)) was more formal than I'm used to. And, I kept wondering, It's the last slot for presentations on the last day of the conference and there are publishers downstairs all trying to sell off, in some cases give away as much of their stock as possible. Who's going to show, so really, René, should I be too worried? I mean, if it was me having to choose between cheap and or free books and this guy talking for an hour and twenty minutes, I'd go for the books, much like I did right after my presentation. But, you've got to know librarians--and I'm beginning to better and better--I should've expected the huge crowd that I got. What a bunch! these librarians. Each of them an educator and true to that spirit--they love books, they love their libraries, but one thing they love more than anything, they love their kids with books in their hands, so show up they did. And they didn't even let me finish my talk. They had questions about and answers to and suggestions for getting this kind of book club started. It was amazing how many librarians were open to giving of their space, if necessary, their books (which means part of their always dwindling budgets), their energy to such a project. Simply, it involves creating book clubs that include both child and parent who are Latino (though the same would work, I think, with any other group that speaks a language other than English, and whose parents as a result, in part due to this language barrier, don't participate in their child's academic life as it unfolds on campus but who never the less care deeply about their child's academic and language aquisition success). Small groups, maybe three or four kids and their parent(s)/guardian/older sibling, read the same title: the child in English, ideally (or in Spanish depending on the child's level), the parent in Spanish (or, again depending on a parent's grasp of the language, then in English). But the idea is to get kids and parents to talk books in the home. We teach the parents a smidgen of academicese (that is, how we talk about books from within) so that they can use it in the home. Imagine a child sitting at the table as his mother is fixing supper, and over her shoulder the mom asks the child, "So, mi'jo, what are you reading today?" And the boy says this book or that one. "Oh, really?" Mom says. "What is it about?" Or, "Who's the story about?" Or, "Where does the story happen?" (summary, main character, and setting, respectively) Or any number of other bits of information we classroom teachers and TEKS are always after. Anyway, these Texas librarians are awesome! Every single one of them! Even those who weren't at my presentation. Thanks for pushing books!

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