Immigrant students wrote children’s books inspired by their own journeys

Seventy students from Park View High School in Stirling, wrote, illustrated and published bilingual storybooks for school children in El Salvador.

VIRGINIA, UNITED STATES – Seventy students from Park View High School in Stirling, wrote, illustrated and published bilingual storybooks for school children in El Salvador. Many of the students participating in the project called ‘Viajes de Mi Vida’ — or, Journeys of My Life were immigrants. The stories describe the student’s personal journeys, and celebrate Latino role models, history and culture. Fifteen stories were compiled into eight full colour children’s storybooks in English and Spanish.

The students invited to be part of the project included English-language learners, while others were aspiring writers and artists. Park View High in Stirling is in an area of Loudoun County where 52 percent of the population are recent immigrants with little or no English language skills.

Award-winning Latino illustrator and author John Parra, worked with the students during a two-day intensive workshop in the PVHS library during November 2015. The program was planned with the PVHS English and Art Departments, with school librarian, Kathleen Britto and Spanish teacher, Eneida Headley from Park View High coordinating the project with Linda Holtslander from Loudoun County Public Library.

Following the two day workshop, the students continued to work on the project over the following five months.

Kathleen Britto indicated the students were more enthusiastic about the books project because they know other children will read their work and because it is extracurricular, with the students volunteering after school and during lunch, instead of it being a classroom assignment.

“It’s hard to get that kind of engagement on a day-to-day basis unless there’s a real audience,” Britto said. “It made a lot of students think more about themselves and their abilities.”

The project grew from National Endowment of the Humanities’s, Latino Americans: 500 Years of History Grant and was set up as a joint partnership between Loudoun County Public Library and Loudoun County Public Schools.

The project also fulfilled the purpose One to the World, a school district initiative that urges educators to convey lessons through authentic, problem-solving projects that address real-world problems.

The books were economically published using an online photo album-making website.

On completion, the students presented the books to the Honourable Francisco Altschul, ambassador of El Salvador to the United States, who delivered them to the Biblioteca Luz Children’s Library in El Salvador. The student authors and illustrators read their books to the children at the PVHS preschool and Loudoun County Public Library (LCPL) during story time and copies of the books are now kept in their collections. Additionally, the students were invited to present their books to the Board of Education and the LCPL Board of Trustees and were interviewed for the Spring 2016 edition of “Motivos” magazine, a young adult bilingual publication.

Images: American Library Assocation

More Information:

Linda Holtslander at Loudoun County Public Library

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