At the end of October, I received an email from a lovely teacher, Emma Wittenberg in NYC. She wanted to start a campaign on Donors Choose for her classroom to receive a 6-month Booklandia Spanish Picture Books Box. Here's a short interview with Emma. Enjoy!
Tell me about where and why you decided to teach in Bilingual education.
I teach at P.S./I.S. 218 Rafael Hernandez Dual Language School in the Bronx.
This is my second year teaching in the U.S., and I am in the Teaching Fellows program. This means that I am teaching while getting my masters in bilingual childhood education. I take classes in the evenings after work at City College. Before teaching in NYC, I was working as an English language teaching assistant in Spain for three years.
Most of my students come from low-income households, with a few students living in temporary housing or shelters. I work with two different first grade classes, who switch between my room, the Spanish-only room, and another English-only classroom every other day. About 90% of my students come from Spanish speaking households, with most of my students’ families coming from either the Dominican Republic or Mexico. Though most of my students hear and speak at least some Spanish at home, the majority are English dominant and tend to have stronger literacy skills in English than in Spanish.
I began learning Spanish when I was in elementary school but didn’t become truly interested in the language until high school, when I went on a community service trip to Valparaiso, Chile with my summer camp. That trip to Chile was the first time that I really realized how useful and beautiful the Spanish language is.
From then on, I studied Spanish seriously throughout high school and college and studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain in my Junior year of college. I decided that I wanted to pursue teaching, and I moved back to Spain after graduating and taught in public schools in Madrid and Córdoba.
I teach dual language because, apart from the obvious developmental benefits of being literate in two languages, I believe that teaching the value of learning multiple languages from a young age is the key to nurturing curious and open-minded students who will have a better understanding of the multicultural and multilingual world that we live in. Allowing our young learners to develop their skills both in their home language and a new language will also leave them better equipped to be the most productive members of society that they can be.
How did you learn about Booklandia?
I found Booklandia through an Instagram post by Teach and Tell Us, which is one of the many bilingual teachers Instagram accounts that I follow for inspiration and ideas for my own classroom. As a dual language teacher who teaches only in Spanish, finding quality books and resources in Spanish is often a very frustrating process. I feel that the Spanish side of dual language is often overlooked, and teachers are expected to find resources on their own to coincide with whichever resources are provided in English. Even in dual language schools, many of the books in Spanish are outdated or beat up, and it's understandable that students feel less drawn to the Spanish books because of their appearance. I struggle to find new books in Spanish that appeal to my first graders and that will get them excited about reading. I decided to use Booklandia for my Donors Choose project because I love the idea of getting a monthly book box delivered to my classroom. I want my students to see how exciting reading in Spanish can be, and how many amazing Spanish language books there are out there!
What advice would you give Bilingual education teachers?
For teachers who want access to Spanish and Bilingual books, I definitely recommend using social media as a tool. There is such a supportive network of bilingual and dual language teachers on Instagram who are more than willing to share ideas, exchange messages, and give honest opinions about resources that they have used in their own classrooms. It can be a struggle to find quality books for dual language classrooms, but they are out there and Booklandia is certainly making it much easier to discover new books, authors, and companies that are at the forefront of bilingual education.
Thank you, Emma, for choosing Booklandia.
We are honored and are excited to expand your classroom's library.
Are you a teacher in a dual language school in need of quality Spanish and Bilingual children's books? Check out Emma's fundraiser for inspiration. We would be happy to work with you on your campaign.