East End Community School students recently enjoyed a multilingual storytime in which high school students read to them in a variety of languages.
“The younger kids were starstruck by the teens, and the teens were charmed by them in turn,” said Shana Genre, EECS teacher librarian. “The teachers, too, were delighted and warmed to see kids of all ages connecting with each other over books.”
She said the event also was a learning experience for both the older and younger students.
Genre and Drew Pisani, a Deering High School English teacher who also teaches a drama elective, collaborated on the idea for the multilingual storytime, after Genre learned that Pisani was seeking multilingual texts for his drama students to read. Genre said that, like other schools in the district, EECS has a number of picture books in a variety of languages.
The event took place on April 4, with the high school students coming to EECS to read to mostly first-graders and a few multilingual students from other grades. Areas of the EECS library were set aside for Portuguese, French, Spanish, Arabic, and English speakers. The school’s English language learner (ELL) teachers were on hand to help out.
“There were many educational purposes to the event, but the main one was giving kids of all ages a chance to read and enjoy literature in their home languages,” Genre said. “For the high schoolers, this was a chance to practice expressive reading without the barrier of having to read in an unfamiliar language. Research also points to the importance of literacy in home languages. I'm hoping that the event will also increase student interest in our wonderful multilingual collection.”
Most of the multilingual books at EECS and other schools in the district were purchased for the schools by the district’s Multilingual & Multicultural Center.
“I would like to thank the folks at the Multilingual Center for helping our schools to have such robust collections of multilingual books,” Genre said. “There's no way I could have made this event happen without their support! Thanks too, to Drew, for the organization and collaboration on his end and also to the first-grade teachers for their willingness to give up class time for the event. It was well worth it!”
Genre said she hopes to repeat the event in the future.