Project: BASE (Bilingual Adventures in Spanish and English)
Hometown: Lake Park, GA
Since 2009, my bilingual reading program, Bilingual Adventures in Spanish and English or “BASE,” has inspired 700 children within my community to learn a foreign language and make reading a life-long passion. At the onset of BASE, I started reading in local libraries. I have now expanded my program to encompass reading sessions in elementary schools, local Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs, and 4-H events as well. As a direct result of speaking and teaching Spanish to young children, I was inspired to work with faculty at the Plaza Comunitaria, in a neighboring county, to teach English to Hispanic immigrants.
Special training or skills needed:
Spanish! I actually began my bilingual reading program during my second year of Spanish study. I am currently in my 4th year of studying the Spanish Language.
Tip: You can teach others whether you are an expert or a beginner.
How to find a location:
My greatest challenge was finding the best place to hold BASE sessions. I initially began reading in local libraries, but soon realized that many children are not able to visit local libraries. So, I approached local public and private elementary schools and began BASE sessions there. Last year I also began reading at the local Boys and Girls Club. Reading at multiple places has worked to my advantage in that I am able to affect a multitude of different children within my community.
Tip: Go where the people are. Don’t make them come to you.
Helpful people and orgs:
Local librarians helped me get my program started throughout my home town. When I first started recruiting elementary schools into BASE, their respective literacy coordinators were instrumental in helping me establish reading sessions with classes. Before I started reading at my local Boy’s and Girl’s Club, I spoke with the Executive Director about my mission. He was very enthusiastic and since then, I have been able to read at the Club as well hold other service projects with the children there.
Tip: Afterschool organizations are often in need of programming.
How to reach out to other orgs:
Basically, I knocked on doors. I would stop by the places where I wished to hold reading sessions and talk about my project’s content, goals, and benefits. After these initial meetings, the people I spoke with would follow up with me very promptly and if approved, I would begin my BASE sessions shortly thereafter.
Tip: Be prepared to answer a lot of questions about your project!
In my BASE sessions, I typically read Dr. Seuss books. However, no matter who the author, I must have a copy of the book in Spanish and in English. I usually find the books on Amazon and I print fun handouts from the Dr. Seuss website www.seussville.com. From time to time, I will present a PowerPoint on a special topic such as “Christmas in Mexico.” My PowerPoints are self-designed and I use clip art, pictures and music to help teach the children about other cultures and customs.
Tip: PowerPoint is a great tool, but it costs money. See if your school or library has it on their computers and ask to use it!
Word to the wise:
In any kind of project you are involved in, especially one that includes educating children; you are directly influencing them for the better. There may be no greater accomplishment than to inspire a child. “If you wish to make an impact for one year, plant corn; if you wish to make an impact for a generation, plant a tree; if you wish to make an impact for an eternity, educate a child.” I’m not sure who said this but, I agree with the sentiment.
I guest blogged on The White House's "For the Win"
How to jump on the movement:
Ultimately, we all have our own passions. For me it is teaching kids Spanish—through reading books—with the hopes that they will learn to speak it someday as well as love to read in any language! For others it may be teaching kids with Autism to crochet. It may be trick or treating for canned food for the local food bank at Halloween. It could even be playing chess with residents of an assisted living home once a week. Whatever you do, give it your all. Show everyone just how passionate you are. Inspire others and have fun!
If you are a student who is enraptured by another language, spread that fascination with children younger than you. The earlier they are exposed to another language, the more prepared they will be when they receive formal instruction in school. Children are like sponges, they soak up what they learn. By sharing Spanish, French, Mandarin, or any language with a child, you are planting the seeds for a future global citizen and a passion.