This year, Heartland Area Education Agency (AEA) offered three separate Title III mini-grants and the Ames Community School District is proud to have received all three of them. Totaling $15,000, these grants have allowed the District to purchase books in a variety of languages to help support students who are English Language Learners.
One of the mini-grants from Heartland is specific to family and community engagement and aligns with one of our main goals this year that came out of conversations with staff and families who participated in our Lau Plan review last September. The group identified making the school environment more welcoming for students and their families as an area of need. One of the specific aspects of the goal was to have more diverse books in the native languages of English Learners in schools and classroom libraries.
“When students have access to books in their own language, they often respond with excitement. Part of it is that they see themselves, their language, and their culture in the environment of the school,” said Shaeley Santiago, K-12 ESL Teacher on Special Assignment.
One of the challenges has been finding books in the variety of home languages represented in the District. It is easier to find books in Spanish, but Chinese and Arabic, which are our next two largest language groups, are not as easy. “Knowing another language is an asset that we can build off of in the classroom because being multilingual is a global skill that will benefit students,” said Santiago. Being able to read in another language carries over to reading in English. “However, if we aren’t showing our students that we value their language and providing them with the materials to at least maintain their reading skills in their home language, then we are not communicating to them that we truly value the asset of being literate in their home language.”