Giving the Gift of Language

8th Graders Create Word & Picture Books to Help Migrant Children Learn English

“You guys did something amazing,” Wendy Garf-Lipp, Executive Director of United Neighbors of Fall River told 8th graders gathered on the risers at Atlantis Charter School. “You made something that is going to change the lives of children new to this country.”

The students had just presented Garf-Lipp with a collection of word and picture books they created in their Social Studies classes to help migrant children learn English.

Eighth graders are required to complete a civics community project as part of their Social Studies class this year. Teachers and administrators put their heads together to come up with a project that would connect students to their community.

“We reached out to United Neighbors of Fall River for ideas,” said Lisa Dion, Atlantis Dean of Humanities, grades 7-12. “Wendy told us about migrant families with young children that are living in local motel rooms. We knew immediately we wanted to do something meaningful for these children, so we came up with the word and picture books to help them learn English.”

“Those younger children that are at home in the motel all day long,” Garf-Lipp said. “They don’t hear English, don’t speak English, don’t have an opportunity to really learn, so having books like this that they can see a familiar object that they already know, like food or animal, and read the English word and hear the English word by someone working with them will help them develop vocabulary.”

Each class created its own book with a theme: Foods, Animals, Household Items, Everyday Language and Alphabet. Students worked together with the help of their teacher to come up with a list of words they thought would be important for the children to know. It was important for students to include words the children will come across in daily life, like bed, table, lamp, car and bus. Once they came up with the words, they drew pictures to identify each word.

“The students were more motivated than in past year because it was for kids,” said Tom Furman, 8th grade social studies teacher. “They understood that this was going to help some little kids learn English and help them adjust to their new community.”

Multiple copies of each of the five books were printed on cardstock at Atlantis, laminated and bound courtesy of L&P Graphics. The books are now on their way to the families for the holidays.

“One day when they grow up, they could write the next Moby Dick, or be the next great artist,” said 8th grader Jalil Islam. “I’m so proud that we did something to help them.”

Stay informed. Get the Newsletter!