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Iowa Youth Writing Project provides opportunities for children to develop bilingualism


Photo by Molly Kelly
Photo by Molly Kelly

By Alba Laragranero

Ed. note: The English translation of this article is available below.

Adam: ¿También hablas español?

Me: Sí. Y tú, ¿hablas algún idioma además de inglés?

Adam: Ojalá.

Adam tiene doce años, pero ya intuye los beneficios del bilingüismo. Para decenas de niños hispanohablantes de Iowa City, sin embargo, el español sigue siendo una lengua privada, que se usa apenas en el ámbito familiar. Muchos de ellos entienden, pero casi no hablan. Lo bueno es que en IC hay oportunidades para que los jóvenes practiquen su español fuera del hogar. El Iowa Youth Writing Project, una organización sin ánimo de lucro fundada en 2010 por estudiantes graduados del Iowa Writers’ Workshop, provee algunas de esas oportunidades. La coordinadora de verano del IYWP, Lisa Roberts, cuenta que sus voluntarios acuden cada martes de diez a doce a Cole’s Mobile Home Court (donde conocí a Adam) y cada jueves a Forest View, dos comunidades con numerosa población hispanohablante.

No van solos: durante esas dos horas, la biblioteca móvil Antílope presta libros, en español y en inglés, a gente de todas las edades. Los niños, bilingües o monolingües, juegan, corretean, realizan actividades de lectura y escritura con monitoras como Alison Edwards, o meriendan gracias a la comida donada por Table to Table. Molly Kelly, voluntaria, perfecciona además su español mientras acompaña a los jóvenes y sabe que “ser bilingüe es un desafío en el ámbito educativo en los EEUU, especialmente cuando a los niños se les habla sólo en una lengua en la escuela”. Conseguir voluntarios que hablen español es vital para que las actividades puedan hacerse en la lengua materna de un alto porcentaje de los niños que acuden a estas citas semanales.

La directora del IYWP, Mallory Hellman, explica que ellos ofrecen más recursos para la promoción del bilingüismo. Durante el curso académico, por ejemplo, imparten semanalmente un taller de escritura creativa en español para niños en el colegio Lemme. Además, el IYWP planea seguir creciendo en esta dirección. Y no sólo en castellano, sino también en otros idiomas con importante representación en Iowa. “Queremos colaborar con la mezquita para hacer un taller bilingüe árabe-inglés”, dice con orgullo Hellman. Celebremos el privilegio de hablar idiomas. Y, Adam, ojalá tú también seas bilingüe algún día.

Sé voluntario del IYWP: www.iywp.org

Conoce la biblioteca móvil del Antílope: www.antelopelendinglibrary.tumblr.com

English Translation

Adam: Do you speak Spanish, too?

Me: I do. Do you speak another language besides English?

Adam: I wish.

Adam is twelve years old, but he already understands the benefits of bilingualism. For dozens of Spanish-speaking children in Iowa City, however, Spanish continues to be a private language, used only with family. Many of them understand it, but they almost can’t speak it. The good thing is that in IC there are opportunities for children to practice their Spanish away from home. The Iowa Youth Writing Project, a nonprofit organization founded in 2010 by graduate students from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, provides some of these opportunities. The IYWP Summer Programming Coordinator, Lisa Roberts, says that in this season the volunteers meet every Tuesday from ten to noon at Cole’s Mobile Home Court (where I met Adam) and every Thursday at Forest View, two communities with large Spanish-speaking populations.

They don’t go alone: The mobile Antelope library lends books in Spanish and English for those two hours, which children can borrow to take home for the week. Children of all ages, bilingual and monolingual, do reading and writing activities with volunteers like Alison Edwards, play, run and snack on fresh foods donated to the IYWP by Table to Table. Molly Kelly, another volunteer, improves her Spanish while accompanying the children and knows that, “Being bilingual is a challenge in the American educational setting, especially when the children are only speaking one language in school.” Getting volunteers who speak Spanish is vital so that the activities can be done in the mother tongue of a high percentage of the children who go to these weekly meetings.

The IYWP director, Mallory Hellman, explains that the IYWP offers more resources for the promotion of bilingualism. During the academic year, they give weekly workshops in creative writing in Spanish for children at Lemme Elementary, and the IYWP plans to continue growth in this direction. And not only Spanish, but other languages with significant representation in Iowa too. “We want to collaborate with the mosque to make a bilingual Arabic-English workshop,” Hellman says with pride. We celebrate the privilege of speaking languages. Adam, you can be bilingual too.

Be an IYWP volunteer: www.iywp.org
Meet the Antelope Lending Library:
www.antelopelendinglibrary.tumblr.com

Translation by Spenser Santos. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 204.


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