WOW Stories Volume IX, Issue 2

Volume IX, Issue 2
Introduction and Editor’s Note

This issue of WOW Stories: Connections from the Classroom includes eleven vignettes from two global literacy communities in Arizona; one consisted of teachers from a private school in a rural community and the other consisted of teachers from urban Title 1 schools. Each community contained educators committed to the use of global literature with students and with explorations of language and culture across global contexts. These two communities are connected by their focus on children exploring global literature as mirrors and windows to examine their own identities and to engage in cross-cultural studies to develop understandings of cultures that differ from their own.

Global Literacy Communities are small groups of educators who engage in professional inquiry around innovative practices in using global children’s and adolescent literature to build intercultural understanding. These communities meet regularly to consider global literature, world languages, and ways of using these books in preK-12 classroom contexts. Although the communities may be school-based, district-based, community-based, or university/school collaborations, they share a commitment to thinking together as professional learning communities and to transforming their practice in classrooms.

In 2020-2021, eight Global Literacy Communities received grants from Worlds of Words to support their work with global literature. The members of these communities shared their work on Padlet and were supported by Cynthia Ryman as the Global Literacy Coordinator. Many spent the majority of their year teaching remotely or teaching under strict safety protocols. Although their work was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, they found ways to connect with each other and with students. Each community has written a vignette for WOW Stories: Connections from the Classroom. This issue contains vignettes by the Vail Global Literacy Community and the TUSD Global Literacy Community. The next issue will highlight the work of the six other global communities in other parts of the U.S.

The Global Literacy Communities project is supported by CERCLL, the Center for Educational Resources in Culture, Language and Literacy, at the University of Arizona. This Title VI Language Resource Center supports research related to language teaching and learning and provides quality teaching resources and professional development to encourage the meaningful integration of culture, literacy and world language study.

The first set of vignettes focuses on the Vail Global Literacy Community, a community of educators in a faith-based school for young children, ages 2-9, in Vail, Arizona, that contains both indoor and outdoor spaces for learning. Their goal was to continue their work from the previous year on creating a global literature curriculum that invites young children to take on intercultural perspectives (see Volume 3, Issue 1 for vignettes of their first year’s work). They also wanted to continue developing writing and art experiences to deepen children’s cultural understandings in Storying Studio.

The first vignette by Prisca Martens and Ray Martens, the facilitators of this group, provides an overview of their work as a study group and in classrooms to help children in understanding themselves as cultural beings and in knowing and respecting cultures that differ from their own. The second vignette by Lacey Elisea, Jane Metzger, and Casandra Sutherland describes their cross-cultural studies with kindergarten students to explore books as bridges to cultures in Mexico and China. The third vignette by Meghan Kjolsrud is a cross-cultural study with Grade 1-3 children of the Ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert, the Hohokam. The fourth vignette by Jennifer Hook and Abbey Unes describes a study of sacred stories with young children, ages 3-5, to explore their own identities around the metaphor of mirrors and windows. The final vignette by Kelsey Nowacki and Jessica Berry describes their work with young children, ages 4-5, to explore how they can show kindness and love as part of their identities. All of the vignettes provide rich descriptions of curricular engagements and many examples of children’s responses and work along with highlighting the books that supported children’s thinking.

The second set of vignettes are written by teachers in a large urban school district with educators from Title 1 elementary and middle schools in Tucson, Arizona. This school district is predominantly Latinx but also contains refugee students from many different countries and so has a growing diversity of languages and cultures. In response to their concern about the depictions of the Middle East in global media as a place of violence and conflict and to tensions within schools, the educators in this group wanted to explore picturebooks about the rich histories and cultures of Muslims in the Middle East. They recognized that they and their students needed both knowledge and new perspectives.

The first vignette by Junko Sakoi, a multicultural district coordinator, overviews their goals as a group and the concerns of teachers who felt they did not have the resources or knowledge to engage with students in a cross-cultural study of the Middle East and Muslim cultures. The study group provided an opportunity to discuss picturebooks with each other before developing paired books and text sets for their own classrooms. Nalda Francisco and Kathryn Chavez describe their work with third graders to find connections between themselves and Muslims in the Middle East around family traditions, food, and character’s experiences in picturebooks, with a particular focus on multimodal representations. Chika Hayashi-Willis, an Arts Integration specialist, used picturebooks with first graders to share and explore Islamic arts and Muslim cultures through the books and related art experiences around lanterns and festivals in Muslim and Mexican cultures. Julia Hillman, a fifth-grade teacher, focused her work on two picturebooks set in Syria and Pakistan that connected to students’ feelings of isolation and loneliness from the pandemic and to their experiences of bullying. Benjamin Kowalski, an English Language Development teacher in middle school, works with refugee children and selected picturebooks that explore kindness in different cultural contexts. Finally, Manal Tafish, an Arabic language teacher in several elementary schools, selected text sets around themes of courage/hope and values/beliefs and developed a range of engagements to use in teaching culture along with language. Each teacher provides careful descriptions of the picturebooks they selected for their classrooms and why they selected those specific books as well as includes examples of children’s talk and artistic responses.

We invite you to read these vignettes and learn about the innovative work occurring in schools that invite children to build bridges across global cultures through intercultural understanding. These vignettes provide many examples of picturebooks and curricular engagements that encourage children to reflect on their own cultural identities and to develop understandings of global cultures so that they come to know their home cultures and the world beyond their homes.

Kathy G. Short, Guest Editor

© 2021 by Kathy G. Short

WOW Stories, Volume IX, Issue 2 by Worlds of Words is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work by Kathy G. Short at

WOW stories: connections from the classroom
ISSN 2577-0551