I finished reading my last book of 2020 around noon on December 31st, 2020. My last book was the awesome middle grade book Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz (even my 7-year-old loved it).
I really loved and enjoyed every single book I read in 2020. In fact, what makes me so excited is the fact that I was able to not just meet but surpass my 2020 reading challenge!!
Of course, this was not always the case. I've tried meeting my reading challenge for years (since 2016) and I had never been able to complete it...until 2020.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is by far a favorite time of year in the USA. From September 15th - October 15th this country honors, celebrates, and recognizes the contribution and influence of Hispanic Americans to USA culture, history and more!
This year, I decided to share a video challenging my #PLN and followers to do the following:
After sharing my challenge, I had a few friends sending me messages accepting the challenge and sharing their findings. It was wonderful to see friends embracing this wonderful celebration.
I also began sharing all my Hispanic Heritage Books (at least the ones I had at home). Every day from September 15th to October 15th I shared a 30 second video of a book that highlights and honors Hispanic culture. I shared picture books, middle grades books, young adult books. I shared my books on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. All of these videos were curated and uploaded it to my Youtube channel.
If you have read any of these books, share with me how you're using them with your students. If you are adding any of these books to your booklist/bookshelf let me know. I'd love to connect and discuss how to use the book with your students.
If you are on Instagram and would like to check out the curated stories, check it out HERE!
Thank you for reading!
Did you know that students are NEVER too old to enjoy a picture book? This article here tells you more. Even adults can learn from picture books - I do!
The book Dreamers, written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales, is a stunning picture book with an amazing story about an immigrant mother and her baby immigrating to the US. While discussing it with our newcomer students, I began placing sticky-notes everywhere with all the ideas and thoughts that were rushing through my mind. Here is what I was thinking:
Packing Our Culture
I was 15 years old when I was asked to pack-up a backpack with a couple of outfits and whatever else I could fit in and carry with me on a journey from Guatemala to the USA.
I remember looking around the room and packing a few photographs and recuerditos (keepsakes) I didn't want to leave behind.
I do not doubt that many immigrants experience this moment when they have to decide what to pack and bring along their migration journey. Besides packing the essentials, many of us pack something that will remind us of the world we are leaving behind, representing our country, homeland, and believes.
Just like we pack-up objects, we also pack-up our identity within us and hold on to it as tight as possible because we know it is what makes us who we are. The things we pack-up within us are experiences, thoughts, feelings, beliefs, family, foods, music, culture, heritage, and more. All this builds our individuality.
Yuyi Morales narrates this personal experience perfectly in this image. We see how her backpack includes a jatana, a pencil, nature items, and Señor Calavera. If you follow Yuyi's Instagram account, you'd see how these objects represent her identity. Objects that she carried with her as she crossed over the Mexican border to come to the USA. And just like we see in her book, the objects that represented her identity were kept safe and packed up because they were being protected or perhaps they stayed packed up because she didn't feel like her individuality would fit in the new culture.
In Dreamers, we see the characters trying to blend in and function in a new country and culture but with a substantial struggle to be who they are.
I experienced this as well, and so do many immigrant students and individuals who come to the United States. While many of us love our home culture, our language, and everything about our heritage, society tells us that to function successfully, we must keep our background packed up and blend in the American culture and master the English language to be successful.
For many of us, it'll be years and years till we realize that our culture, language, and heritage are valuable and core to who we are.
For others, this realization will never happen - and heritage, language, and culture will be lost. To me, this is a sad reality that will hinder many generations.
Opportunities to Unpack
As an immigrant myself, I can tell you how intimidating it is to be yourself and unpack our background for all to see.
You look around, and everything is new and different. You listen around, you and all you hear is the new language -- a language you don't yet understand.
However, there are ways to embrace the differences while still appreciating what is packed within us and show them to the world.
Here are a few of them:
Having our culture and heritage unpacked is just the most wonderful feeling. How do you know your culture, language, and heritage is unpacked? - When you celebrate it, appreciate it, and embrace it. When you do not fear what others will say about who you are, how you speak, or what you're wearing. When you begin to find a place in your new home, you understand that we have more similarities than differences and contribute to society to create a beautifully diverse culture.
As we were reading this book with my student, we both had different takeaways from the text. Yousef here was able to draw what he understood what was happening in the story, then retell the story using his own words. He was able to personally connect with several parts in the story and was very confident understanding it because the images speak so much.
I am encouraged to write my takeaways because he did the same!
If you have read this book and would like to share your takeaways with me, please share them with me. I'd love to hear about your experience with this amazing book. Or if there is another book that would share these same ideas, I'd love to know of it.
Remember YOU matter! Your culture matters, your language matters, your heritage matters. So, showcase it...display for all to see and appreciate it.
Thank you for reading!
The Bilingual/ESL Department at Region 10 ESC in North TX holds an annual symposium for their 500+ educators. This year, due to the COVID pandemic, the event was help virtually.
I was honored and humbled to be invited as their 2020 Symposium 'Power Of Unity' keynote speaker. I was so excited to connect and meet so many passionate educators who are working hard to provide their very best for all students.
The keynote presentation was on June 23rd and it was a way to kick-off the symposium - teachers had a long day of sessions to attend right after the keynote.
My presentation title was 'Shifting from Statistics to Stories'
The presentation was streamed LIVE so you can find the recorded version on my YouTube channel below.
**This post appeared originally in Seidlitz Education on April 21st, 2020.**
It doesn’t happen as often as it should, but when it does, it is the most amazing feeling one can experience. That moment when you’re reading a book and you see your life and family experiences reflected on every single page. That moment when you see text and images intertwine on a page to bring forth cultural validation and acceptance. That moment when you close the book and cry tears of happiness because you realize that stories are so much deeper than you ever thought.
I experienced all this and so much more the day I read Sometimes… by Hugo Ibarra and John Seidlitz.
(video of me reading the book aloud for International Children’s Book Day.)
Sometimes… is just the book we need right now. Ibarra and Seidlitz share with us a story in which immigrants’ experiences are legitimized, one that opens doors for connections and much-needed conversations. It is a story that made me think about how experiences and family stories don’t have to be forgotten. And about how significant it is when stories are shared, because they validate what is core in our existence and our hopes for what is to come.
Sometimes… is a story of hope. A story of courage and strength. A story of a family who worked together through difficult circumstances to make their dreams come true. And even though sometimes things don’t go as planned and changes need to happen along the way, we see the characters rising through it all. We see Andrés and Clara holding tight to the hope offered by their mother and teachers. A hope that helps them get through every situation that comes their way.
The International Children’s Book Day theme for 2020 was “A Hunger for Words”, and as much as I identify with this phrase, I also believe there’s a hunger for cultural understanding — a hunger for identity and individual acceptance.
Children all over our nation deserve to open a book and see their families’ experiences and languages heard and represented.
Through the lens of an unaccompanied and undocumented immigrant, an English language learner, and an educator, I closely analyzed each page of Sometimes… and wrote down a few essential points at which the book authentically reflects many of our students’ experiences.
Last week I found out about International Children's Book Day - a wonderful worldwide celebration.
I immediately started looking into it - If you know me...you'd know that I am passionate about children's books. I love picture books. I used them when I taught elementary with students in Kindergarten through 5th grade and now I use them with my newcomer high school students.
There's just something magical about a children's books & picture book. I've used them to teach all genres and I've found that students connect with these books and encourages them to learn more.
So, as soon as I found out that International children's Book Day is celebrated on April 2nd, 2020 - I started brainstorming about what book to focus on. Of course, all my cultural and diverse background book collection is in my classroom and there was no way I was going to be allowed in the building to get some.
So I started digging through the books I have at home found a book author John Seidlitz sent me. I had not taken the time to read it so I started reading it...and...Oh...EM...Geeeeee! I started crying while reading it. I couldn't believe there was such an amazing book on my bookshelf and I have not read it!!!
In Stories That Sparkle Powerful Conversations blog post, I shared a lesson I started with our SIFE (Students with Interrupted Formal Educations) ELs. This lesson led to another wonderful week where students created a wonderful presentation to show the rest of the class.
All our newcomer ELs are expected to present their learning in our ESL class, of course, the bar remains high for SIFEs. Just like Kanako Suwa says,
"Simplifying is GIVING UP, Scaffolding is BELIEVING.
Simplifying is dumbing down/lowering expectations.
Scaffold = same expectations and content + supports put in place to help Ss meet the expectations."
With the understanding that these students are capable of more - I encouraged them to create their own book using the sentences they had formed from the book Dreamers.
My students were very excited when they noticed that they were creating their own book using the information they understood.
Both students were able to create and publish their own book but only one student had the strength to record the reading. It does take a lot of courage to do this knowing that your voice is being heard by others and you're not sure of yourself in the targeted language.
So the platform I use to publish my students' stories is WriteReader. This platform is student-friendly and it can be used by students K-12.
One of my students used the camera to take some pictures of the book that matched his text, another student took photographs of her own illustrations.
Here's Yousef's book: DREAMERS (link includes voice/reading)
Here's Abril's book: DREAMERS
Both of my students did a great job and they are very proud of the work they accomplished.
You see, it really doesn't take much to help our English learners (and SIFE) to perform at their highest potential.
If you choose to use this platform to publish your students' stories, please let me know! I'd live to share them with my students as well.
Thank you so much for reading!
On August 15, I was supposed to attend and present at the Annual Global Education Summit in which by the way was in Concord, NC for the first time. This summit is organized by UNC World View department at The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
Unfortunately, and disappointingly, I missed it!! I had to go to TX to drop my son off and the day of my return to NC, my flights were canceled due to bad weather. What a bummer!!
Anyway, I already had my presentation ready so I thought I would post it here for those who might be interested in using picture books to encourage and nurture a global mindset on students in K-12 education. Picture books are powerful pathways to learn, understand and embrace the world around us.
My presentation description was as follows:
Picture books are powerful pathways to learn, understand, and embrace the world around us. Characters’ experiences found in picture books can serve as mirrors that reflect and reaffirm students’ culture and experiences. Picture books serve as windows to an unknown world that nurtures empathy and passion for a global mindset. Incorporate picture books in lessons to support reading, writing, listening and academic discourse.