For homework this semester, a group of Boise State English 101 students spent some quality time showing elementary students at Garfield Elementary School how to say “friend” and write letters in Arabic, Chinese, Persian, and other languages.
The letter exchange was the culmination of a semester-long exploration of literacy. Simnitt’s students first explored literacy by working with Read to Me!, an Idaho Library Commission project that provides materials to parents of young children to help them prepare those children to begin school and to learn to read. The program had identified the need to translate these early literacy materials into Arabic and other languages to serve a growing population in the area.
The Boise State Service Learning Program matched the project with the Simnitt’s literacy-themed class of cross-cultural students, who speak 12 languages and come from all over the world, from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, China, Peru, Iran, England, South Africa, Rwanda, and the US.
Drawing on the collective knowledge of the class about literacy, language, and culture, students translated the documents into their native languages and spent class time exploring and writing about literacy barriers and their own experiences learning to read and write in their native languages and English.
The class concluded that making reading fun for children is one way to improve literacy. To enact this solution, the Boise State students began the letter exchange with the young readers in the tutoring program at Garfield, also run by Boise State’s Service Learning Program.
Note: This story was originally posted May 8th, 2013.