Literary Activism

Action Item: Bilingual Books for English Language Learners

Leila Roy

Staff Writer

After a lengthy stint as a children's bookseller, Leila Roy took a step sideways into the library world. There, she does the same thing she did as a bookseller—matching people with stories in any and all formats, whether print, audio, film, comic, or some newfangled hybrid—but doesn't have to deal with changing the tape on the cash register. She lives in Maine with her husband, where she runs her small-town library and occasionally tries to rescue wildlife from her cat, who is a murderer. In addition to talking books at her long-running blog, Bookshelves of Doom, she's a weekly columnist at Kirkus Reviews. Blog: Bookshelves of Doom Twitter: @bkshelvesofdoom

Between the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from the White House and the recent uptick in ICE raids, the United States probably doesn’t feel like a particularly friendly place for recent immigrants.

With that in mind, this week’s classrooms in need all serve largely immigrant populations, and all of them specifically serve students who are learning English as a second—or third or fourth or fifth—language:

I Know the Arabic Word, but What About English? in Brooklyn, NY:

Imagine trying to describe how you felt the first time you saw the Statue of Liberty or trying to describe how marshmallows feel and taste. Now try explaining these things in a language you are just beginning to learn! This is a challenge my students experience each day.

Reaching Out to the Bilingual Community! in Paterson, NJ:

In our community, the bilingual students miss out on many projects and activities due to the lack of resources in Spanish. I would like to have my students exploring some of Dr. Seuss books in Spanish during our school celebration for Dr. Seuss’ Birthday. I’m requesting copies of El Lorax, El Gato Ensombrerado, and Huevos verdes con jamon. With these books my students will have the opportunity to explore Dr. Seuss in their native language!

Culturally Responsive Novels for a Culturally Diverse Classroom in Portland, OR:

My students are English language learners. They are high school students and need access to books that are at their reading levels. As students develop their English language proficiency, they need to read books and respond to books daily to build their vocabulary, automaticity, and fluency. These books will give students an opportunity to engage in small group discussions about books they are reading together, write about the books they are reading, and build a rich vocabulary that comes from the act of reading.


As always, a lot of us giving a little each ends up being…a lot? In other words, $1,000 looks like a lot of money to raise, but spread between 1,000 people, not so much!

And if you can’t donate, boosting is a huge help as well!