WOW Currents

Creating Student Connections Using Text Sets

By Sakoi Junko, Tucson Unified School District and Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico

This week, we will continue the discussion about text sets, which were created by the “Read, Write, Review for Us (RWRU)” project to help educate local Tucson children about refugee students’ homelands and the diversity within those groups of people. Once the first text set was displayed for book browsing in the classroom, the 5th graders were able to “relocate” their old home into the various stories within the books. We observed the excitement in the students’ voices as they shared stories of their homeland with their peers. It became obvious at that point that even the 5th graders did not know each other’s backgrounds. Because they are often generalized as “refugee students”, the students’ individual identities are often forgotten. With the exception of customs, the refugee and immigrant students are no different from any of the American students beginning the new year in a new classroom every August. It was particularly advantageous to put aside the term, “refugee” and allow the children to learn about each other from a fresh perspective.

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Creating Mixed Genre Text Sets

By Sakoi Junko, Tucson Unified School District and Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico

Children’s literature may be one the best mediums for promoting new learning in the classroom. Text sets are especially helpful in that they offer a collective of literary landscapes full of unfamiliar places and various perspectives. This week, we introduce a text set that we put together to support the new Tucsonan (immigrant and refugee) children’s cultural affirmation while they develop the Tucsonan side of their identity. The text sets we create for “Read, Write, Review for Us (RWRU)” projects are to inform local Tucson children about refugee students’ homelands and the diversity within those groups of people. When the the topic of refugees is framed in this way, students will realize that the term “refugees” does not always mean war-zone survivors. Students learn that it can also include those surviving climate change. For example, the Marshall Islands are drowning due to climate changes and many of Marshallese had to relocated to places like Tucson.

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Refugee Waves and New Voices

By Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico and Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District

In the last decade, Arizona consistently ranks among the top ten states with the number of refugee arrivals (Refugee Processing Center, 2018) with more than 15,400 refugees resettled in Arizona from 2012 through 2016. Accordingly, Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) received refugees since the late 1970s from the Southeast Asian countries, Russia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba, Somalia and Sudan. Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi refugees have been the largest groups to arrive in Tucson in 2018 (Arizona Refugee Resettlement Program, 2018), in addition to fifty other countries with thirty-eight different languages. In the past five years, TUSD yearly enrollment has averaged around 900 refugee students across K-12 schools (Tucson Unified School District, 2018).

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Forced Journeys in Children’s Literature, Part II

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona

Middle Eastern regions and Muslims have been unfailingly in the media and news. Children’s literature and Young Adult literature also tap into this trend and brings forward concerns faced by these regions, presently. Turmoil within the regions has become a predominant global concern since the refugee crises has brought the impact to Western shores, impacting their economy, balance of power, and in some cases, law and order. Most earlier books were written by people outside of the regions, thus, not true insiders to the cultures, raising concerns of authenticity. Commonly held trends as well as issues in literature about Muslims is that of migration, refugees, Muslim people at the center of strife and Muslim people as violent, blood thirsty terrorists. There is an issue when these assumptions, generalization, and stereotypes are taken as truths.

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Forced Journeys in Children’s Literature, Part I

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona

Comic books have been popular. Black and white comic strips have been present in newspapers. Cartoon comic strips have been popular due to being funny and also due to their political and social commentary. Presently, movies take the ideas and books and project them for a larger audience thus emphasizing their impact. Graphic novels are popular and have made a recent comeback and continue this narrative discourse that is highlighted in popular films and comic books.

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WOW Currents

North American Indigenous Children’s Literature

By Angeline P. Hoffman, White Mountain Apache

In North American Indigenous children’s literature, storytelling is characterized by focusing on origin, cultural identity and traditional knowledge systems. Origin is often explained with the aide of animal characters, but these are not the only types of stories to use animals. Animals are also used to explain dilemmas when it comes to ethical and moral decisions. As originally told by the elders, these stories are embraced by members of the community as our way of knowing and being. Narratives are transmitted orally and by physical expression (body language, facial expressions, gestures, ect.) through songs, chants, ceremony, dance and ritualized storytelling.

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Using Indigenous Literature to Heal from Historical Trauma

By Angeline P. Hoffman, White Mountain Apache

Dr. Gregory Cajete, the editor of A People’s Ecology: Explorations in Sustainable Living, puts together many voices to focus on health and healing in Indigenous cultures. This book provides a substantial contribution to our knowledge of many subjects, including foods, food traditions and farming among Indigenous peoples; health problems resulting from the adoption of a “modern” diet by Native communities; efforts to restore the self-reproducing food plants that are the foundation of sustainable agriculture; permaculture and environmental restoration; the folk healing system known as curanderismo; the renaissance of ancient building practices; and organic foods retailers as activists.

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Code Talker Stories

By Angeline P. Hoffman, White Mountain Apache

Code Talker stories are important because of the significant impact Code Talkers had on World War II. Additionally, the portrayals of the Code Talkers in story empower the reality of our Navajo Heroes. This section, I would like to honor them. During the course of World War II, Diné (Navajo) code talkers were a crucial part of the U.S. strength in the South Pacific, sending and receiving messages in an unbreakable code based on the Diné language. As Marines, they took part in every assault, from Guadalcanal in 1942 to Okinawa in 1945, experiencing some of the bloodiest fighting in the war. For the Diné code talkers, the military experience of serving in World War II–mythologized as “the good fight”–was a chance for the young men to demonstrate their courage in the most exciting adventure of their lives. Descriptions of the following books are copied from the publishers’ websites unless otherwise noted.

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Stories of the American Indian Experience

By Angeline P. Hoffman, White Mountain Apache

The stories of Indigenous people reflect both the material and deeper aspects of our culture. These deeper aspects include traditions such as oral storytelling, considered a spiritual practice. Oral tradition is used to tell certain stories the way they should be told, with an impassioned audience and storyteller. These stories are defined as a body of literary works with standard procedures that have been preserved for many generations through performance. This structure helps listeners create awareness of their own cultural perspective. It’s important to understand the place of oral literature in Indigenous culture and to translate those stories into print so they can be shared. The weaving together of oral literacy with writing reveals unique features and values within many different cultures. This significance of the vocal and textual language is shown in several of this week’s suggested books that have been adapted from oral to print. Other books selected demonstrate culture, tradition, genocide, abuse and heroism, and help to honor the American Indian Experience.

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Peace Defined by Child Characters and the United Nations

Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

I have just been listening (again) to Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor, the piece that cellist Vedran Smailovic played in Sarajevo to protest the deaths of 22 innocent civilians. As I listen to the exquisite melodies, I think about peace and what that means to so many people around the world who are in areas of political strife. I also think about peace in the homes of the people I interact with, whose lives have been fractured by bullying behavior, divorce, abuse, other forms of violence, death and extreme poverty. We need peace in all areas of our lives.

Peace Defined by Child Characters and the United Nations: UN Resolution Rights of the Child

Click to go to Unicef’s full-size poster.

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