Reading Ruby with New Americans

Ruby Nell Bridges at age 6, was the first African American child to attend William Franz Elementary School in New Orleans after Federal courts ordered the desegregation of public schools.

One of the jobs I cherish doing is bringing NH Humanities’ book discussion programs to English Language Learners.I met with Christine Powers’ class of adult learners in Salem, New Hampshire this spring. They were all new Americans and also mothers. We met in the school where their kids go. Together we read a series of illustrated biographies including The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles, the psychologist who wrote The Moral Life of Children.

I discovered Robert Coles’ The Moral Life of Children, years ago. For the book, he interviewed many children including Ruby Bridges, six years old. A New York Times reviewer explained Coles book like this, ”’No one teaches children sociology or psychology,” Dr. Coles remarks; ‘yet, children are constantly noticing who gets along with whom, and why.’ His tales are about what they have noticed, and how it affects them.” Ruby Bridges told Robert Coles about the mobs of people screaming hate at her as she crossed in front of them to go to school:

”They keep coming and saying the bad words, but my momma says they’ll get tired after a while and then they’ll stop coming. They’ll stay home.”

It was powerful reading about social justice issues in the U.S. with women from Pakistan, India, Lebanon, Vietnam, and Latin American countries. They are all mothers and know the power of family words. I stayed only for a short time, but Chris and her students kept delving into the book and the questions it asks of us and what we say to our kids.

In this new language of English, each student wrote a cinquain poem.

Here’s one:

Ruby Bridges

Religious Brave

Reading Praying Talking

“I was praying for them.”

Love.

Thank you, Chris Powers and all the women in your class for our time together.

 

We Yearn: The Matchbox Diaries

 

matchboxdiariesI lead book club discussions with English language learners. Today I’m beginning to post images from books we read along with a taste of our discussions.

Italian emigrants, 1900,  say good-bye

to Grandmother who remains behind, and calling,

“You’ll eat the food there and forget your home.”*

It is not true, my students say.  They will not forget.

They say the grandmother is too old to  make the journey.

They say this has happened in their family, too.

And here they make the food.

 

*Bagramibatoulline.com The Matchbox Diaries by Paul Fleischman, illus. by Bagram Ibatoulline, Candlewick Press

 

Bhutanese Dance in New Hampshire

Bhutanese girls dance a story about friendship

“Traditional arts are artistic activities such as music, dance, and crafts that are passed down from one generation to the next within families and communities and are regarded by the community as part of their heritage.” This is how the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts describes their Heritage & Traditional Arts Program. This fall I will begin a project to help to identify master dancers in New Hampshire’s Bhutanese community that the Arts Council can add to their roster of traditional artists.  I first saw traditional dance when I worked with New Hampshire Humanities to produce a folktale told by Hari Tiwari, an adult ESOL student in Laconia.  To celebrate the book’s publication,  we had a big festival on Manchester’s west side where many people from Bhutan have made their homes. I was fascinated by a dance performed by young girls and choreographed by a master dancer.  This is the man I seek to find, the master dancer!  I want to hear the story of dance from his point of view and I want to record him and photograph the dance! I have heard that young dancers are creating new forms, combining traditional dance with Bollywood styles.  I’m on a quest to find out how dance changes with time and when dancers leave their homeland. This also helps with my current research for a book.

Here’s the story of the festival where we celebrated the folktale we published in Nepali and English, The Story of a Pumpkin.