ERIC Identifier: ED390283
Publication Date: 1995-11-00
Author: Dame, Melvina Azar
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Languages and Linguistics Washington DC.
Serving Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Students:
Strategies for the School Librarian. ERIC Digest.
The promotion of literacy is the most essential element in the design of
school library services to a linguistically and culturally diverse student
population. Librarians are faced with the challenge of linking students from
widely varying backgrounds to information sources and drawing them into patterns
of regular library use. By creating a positive climate, the school library can
provide English as a second language (ESL) students with a place for learning,
sharing, and personal growth. This digest discusses ways the librarian in one
high school fostered a positive environment in the school library for ESL
students and broadened the role of the school library in effecting literacy
experiences for these students.
A WELCOMING PLACE
To lessen fear of the unfamiliar, ESL
students were introduced to the library at a time when no other classes were
there. Each student was given a diagram of the library, then walked through each
area beginning at the entrance. Hands-on activities were provided, such as
practice in using the copy machine. Thereafter, students returned to the library
on an individual basis, or in pairs, with a specific request to the librarian;
at this time, individual explanations and demonstrations were given of the
various areas and their uses. Eventually, students were sent to the librarian
with individual assignments. By this time, students were familiar with the
library staff and did not hesitate to approach them for help. Students were
encouraged to use the library before school, after school, and during study hall
periods. As a result, the ESL students found the library to be a safe and
welcoming place and became frequent users.
To draw ESL students into a pattern of
regular library use, the library established a collection of reading materials
in their first languages. To meet the full range of interests and reading
abilities, collections of fiction and non-fiction books in Spanish, Arabic, and
Portuguese were borrowed for extended periods through Interlibrary Loan. With
school library funds, a small collection of Portuguese books, a weekly
Portuguese newspaper, a Spanish newspaper, and foreign language dictionaries
were purchased. Spanish magazines were contributed by the Spanish language
High-interest, low-reading-level paperbacks in English were borrowed from a
local public library's literacy collection. At the request of the ESL teacher,
these books were housed in the ESL classroom for easy access during classroom
times. A listening station with a cassette player and headphone and a collection
of read-along books in English were made available in the library conference
room. Most books were classics that are required reading for high school
students. In addition, a collection of wordless books was borrowed from several
public libraries. Many elementary school ESL teachers report multiple uses of
these books, including promotion of oral language and conversation skills,
development of sequence and prediction skills, and development of vocabulary
RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS
For all students, but especially for
ESL students, the optimal learning process involves connecting new ideas with
old knowledge. To provide materials required for this, the librarian introduced
the use of advanced organizers, an essential instructional strategy proposed by
Ausubel (1960) to enhance classroom learning. Ausubel maintained that the
information-processing system of humans is a set of ideas that provides anchors
for new information or ideas, that in turn provides a storehouse when new
meanings are acquired. Central to enhancing the learning process for students
with language needs is the technique of building learning upon prior learning
and knowledge. Based on this view of how learners process information, and the
realization that much of the material to be learned by ESL students is
completely new and unrelated to anything they know, the librarian created
opportunities for ESL students to gain essential prior knowledge through the use
of advance organizers. Collaboration between the librarian and the ESL teacher
resulted in a list of key themes and subject areas related to the ESL text and
curriculum. Appropriate materials were acquired, borrowed, and collected by the
librarian for use in both the media center and in the ESL classroom. Because
this strategy relies heavily on visuals and pictorial materials, a picture file
was developed for advance organizers. To collect materials suitable for use as
advance organizers, the librarian used references for collecting visuals with
pictures of all kinds, especially designed for second language learners (Maley,
Duff, & Grellet, 1981), a directory of resource organizations (Joramo,
1979), and various bibliographies (Dame, 1993).
COLLABORATION WITH OTHER AGENCIES
The school library
organized a program with speakers on occupations, career choices, and vocational
and education options for the ESL students through the local community college.
Representing the college were an admissions officer, a Spanish-speaking
counselor from Access to Opportunity (a counseling and mentor program for ESL,
at-risk, low-income, and disadvantaged students), and a Spanish-speaking
counselor from the Education Opportunity Center (a pre-admission center for ESL
students needing counseling in language competency, financial aid, admission
requirements, GED information, etc.). The program was held in Spanish and
English in the school library with an interpreter for the Portuguese students.
Follow-up appointments were made and the counselor from the Educational
Opportunity Center returned weekly to the school library for individual
The school library has a unique
role in the integration of cultural differences within the school community.
Because library services are essential to all segments of the school population
and school activities, the librarian holds a strategic position as an
integrator, coordinator, negotiator, unifier, and equalizer.
While a class of English-speaking students was researching Christmas customs
around the world, the ESL class was researching Christmas traditions in the
United States. The librarian offered to co-ordinate an intercultural program
between the two classes to exchange Christmas customs and traditions.
When the ESL students were researching the history and foods of Thanksgiving,
the librarian proposed the preparation of a Thanksgiving dinner. Ultimately, the
ESL teacher had a Thanksgiving dinner brought into her class for her students.
Among the numerous resources and bibliographies available on the subject of
multicultural materials, Miller-Lachmann (1992) and Dame (1993) are suggested as
a starting point.
One literacy activity took shape when
the school librarian observed that senior students were assigned to the high
school library for Spanish IV Independent Study. It seemed that there were
opportunities for these students to improve their Spanish literacy if
Spanish-speaking students could be in the library at the same time. This would
help the Spanish-speaking students improve their English literacy skills and
would help to promote multicultural understanding. By consulting with the ESL
teacher, Spanish-speaking ESL students were identified and an examination of
their schedules showed that some of them could be scheduled into the library for
the same period as the Spanish IV students. Alliances were formed with the
Spanish and ESL teachers, and two student literacy groups were formed. Students
were informed by the teachers of the purpose of the groups, and that they would
be graded by the librarian for effort and participation. Spanish/English
dictionaries were available at each meeting.
Initial sessions were centered around oral communication in Spanish and
English. Because the students were strangers to each other, the flow of
conversation of these early sessions was directed by the librarian.
In the beginning, there were periods of silence. However, as the meetings
progressed, barriers were overcome and the project took on a life of its own.
Conversation became natural and comfortable. Students began requesting a
non-directed format of conversation. Spanish was spoken during half of the
period, and English was spoken during the other half. At times, conversations
and discussions would alternate between Spanish-speaking students speaking in
English, while English-speaking students responded in Spanish. At other times,
the order would be reversed.
Culture-specific dialogues were created. For example, when teenage culture in
Mexico and the United States was explored, recognition of similarities and
differences clarified false assumptions and generalizations. As English-speaking
students sought knowledge and information about the social, cultural, economic,
and political issues of Mexico, the Spanish-speaking students became information
givers, thus gaining a new status.
Following the oral communicative stage, the group moved on to reading in both
Spanish and English. Following the reading of each article, students translated
the article in their own words, then each student provided an individual
interpretation of the article in English and Spanish.
The writing segment of this literacy activity began with students agreeing to
be ethnographers by observing what was happening in and outside of class, at
school functions, and in interactions between ESL students and
native-English-speaking students. Students agreed to keep a journal to record
their observations of differences and to reflect on whether these differences
were cultural. This served as a springboard to multicultural understanding.
Finally, journal writing was introduced between students in both languages.
Through journal writing, a sense of developing friendships was observed.
Noticeable, also, was the interaction of these students as they met between
classes and in the hallways.
Although initiated as a literacy activity, these group meetings also produced
a greater appreciation and understanding of cultural diversity, empowered
students, and provided an opportunity for friendships to form. The
English-speaking students began to acknowledge the expertise of the
Spanish-speaking students and sought help from them more often than from the
dictionary. In turn, the Spanish-speaking students developed new friends and
were empowered by their new helping role.
The development of skills in using the library
and its resources is an essential part of learning English. Non-native English
speakers may have an even greater need for library skills than native speakers.
Although they may not have achieved the English proficiency necessary for
expressing their learning needs, they may need information that native speakers
take for granted. ESL students must be given the tools that will enable them to
succeed in the American education system (Dame, 1993). The activities described
here were implemented with the hope that through access to information and
knowledge, ESL students can become equal participants in society.
Ausubel, D.P. (1960). The use of advance
organizers in the learning and retention of meaningful verbal material. "Journal
of Educational Psychology," 51, 267-272.
Dame, M.A. (1993). "Serving linguistically and culturally diverse students:
Strategies for the school library media specialist." New York: Neal-Schuman.
Joramo, M.K. (1979). "Directory of ethnic publishers and resource
organizations." Chicago: American Library Association.
Maley, A., Duff, A., & Grellet, F. (1981)."The mind's eye: Using pictures
creatively in language learning." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Miller-Lachmann, L. (1992). "Our family, our friends, our world: An annotated
guide to significant multicultural books for children and teenagers. New Jersey: