Celebrating Heritage Language Book Week at ASL

Celebrating Heritage Language Book Week at ASL

The diversity of our community is something we celebrate at ASL. Our cultural differences are a part of what makes our school such an enriching environment. As March sees the beginning of Heritage Language Book Week (HLBW), read on to discover more, and learn about how we are marking the occasion at ASL.

At ASL, we have more than 60 languages spoken in our community. Celebrating HLBW at ASL began 10 years ago, spearheaded by Nanette Pakula, lower school English as an Additional Language (EAL) teacher and Heritage Language Club (HLC) coordinator. Taking inspiration from the United Nations’ International Mother Language Day, HLBW seeks to amplify multilingual voices within the School and boost the number of multilingual texts in our libraries. What began as a single shelf of books behind the librarian’s desk has grown to our libraries overflowing with 1,369 diverse texts in 51 different languages.

Just before February Break, 18 teachers read a book to our lower school students in 14 languages!

HLBW sees a focus on multilingualism for our lower school students, with plenty of multilingual books to be found in classrooms for students to explore. Teachers and parents read multilingual books to their students during library sessions and parents are encouraged to read to their children outside of school in their home languages.

As a diverse community, ASL seeks to provide all students with ways to share their backgrounds and experiences so we can all benefit from the richness that different perspectives bring. We believe that encouraging students to think and communicate in their home languages supports higher-order thinking skills, and develops an understanding of multiple international perspectives.

HLC is about enabling students to bring their whole self to school, share their identity, and feel proud of their language and culture. Part of our After-school Program, HLC and Creating Multilingual Stories matches older students or faculty members with lower school students based on their home language, allowing for a connection between home and school and finding a community within a community. Witnessing the enthusiasm of both our multilingual and monolingual students, seeing the excitement bubble at borrowing from the heritage language section of the library, and watching our multilingual students show pride and joy in their home languages, are amazing to see.

“We are always looking for ways to promote home languages throughout ASL—it’s inspiring to see both teachers and parents finding ways to promote different languages in the classroom and at home.” 
—Darryl Phelps and Nanette Pakula, lower school EAL teachers

HLBW ties in perfectly with World Book Day on Friday, 3 March. Check out the photos below depicting our amazing multilingual board that can be found in the lower school reception, alongside the lower school EAL team’s favorite multilingual phrases!

Nanette: “Eyn sprach iz keynmal nisht genug” - Yiddish for “One language is never enough.”

Darryl: "Con la lingua in bocca arrivi a Roma a piedi." - Italian idiom meaning if you can speak, you have the power to seek information. Literal translation: "With your tongue in your mouth you can arrive in Rome on foot."