Engaging Readers in Global Literacy at Civic Center Secondary
Our school serves students in Grades 7 through 12 and is located one block from the city hall in San Francisco. Students live in many areas of the city and are referred to our school as an alternative due to their difficulties in their current schools. For these students labeled as “at risk” due to habitual truancy, behavior issues, and histories of suspension and expulsion, the goal is to change behavior so they will stay in school and earn enough credits to graduate. We have created a series of classes for “life skills” where students can choose projects and activities that include history, science, literacy, and art.
Our team was excited to review and select global literature that would appeal to our often “reluctant” readers due to their negative interactions with books in their previous schooling experiences. We chose several books about refugees, including Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday (Anderson, 2020), River of Stars (Hua, 2018), and When You Ask Me Where I’m Going (Kuar, 2019). Some of our students are newcomers and most are aware of the fragile status of immigrants. Team members chose books to read aloud to small groups of students and then facilitated discussions. We chose titles that built on current school programs, giving book talks of the new books. Students were able to access global literature titles with large print books, read alouds by teachers, and audiobooks. With each book and related project, students completed a brief written reflection (journal write, art project or 3-2-1 exit slip). The 3-2-1 exit slip consisted of 3 resources that were new to the student, 2 strategies to use, and 1 idea to share.
We used a “Learn, Think, Act” process for lessons that we developed. LEARN: Students read and explore global literature, research related global issues, discuss the books and consider different perspectives, causes and consequences. THINK: Students consider various ideas and strategies to resolve issues. Student discussions include differing values, perspectives of power and variety of global perspectives. ACT: Students use their thinking to help address and seek to resolve community and global issues.
The books we shared with students included Forward Me Back to You (Perkins, 2019) which features two teens who participate in a summer service trip to India to work with survivors of human trafficking. This book had interesting characters and introduced an example of teen service learning. In our first discussion, students talked about the different home life situations of the characters. Several students were in group homes or foster care and they talked about adoption issues.
Students participated in RISE (Refugee and Immigrant Supports in Education) to share community resources. They organized and distributed healthy snack bags before Thanksgiving and winter break to all students. Our RISE program encourages teens to share resources with immigrant and refugee students. We used short stories from the book We are Displaced (Yousafzai, 2019) to encourage thinking and ideas about this topic. All year long the library also displayed many other books around the theme of refugees.
Our school has a Kephra program. Each class has weekly lessons and activities about African and African American culture and history. When the Slave Esperança Garcia Wrote a Letter (Rosa, 2015) was used in the classes to show a personal look at the tragic history of slavery in another part of the world. Students learned that Esperanca Garcia is remembered today as the courageous slave who wrote the first letter of appeal in Afro-Brazilian Brazil in 1770. Commemorating the date of the letter’s discovery, September 6, has become Black Consciousness Day in Piauí state.
In early January, students were introduced to oral interviews. Students were planning to conduct family/community oral interviews to compile quotes for a school publication and recipes to contribute to Students ReBuild with a focus on world hunger. Some classes watched World Hunger Challenge Webcasts hosted by the Global Nomads Group and Students ReBuild. Classes learned about oral history and interview techniques from the Voice of Witness Program and interviewed a classmate. The topic of the interview was a favorite food or recipe. Students discussed a wide range of international foods. In early March, we did the oral interviews in all classes about favorite recipes. I submitted the recipes and we were able to raise $132 dollars for Students ReBuild. This action plan for global citizenship service learning was curtailed by the abrupt closing of school due to the pandemic on March 13, 2020.
Jamaal Aflatooni, an author, visited the school on March 4. Students had many questions about writing and developing a book. The author gave books to students who participated in the discussions. Jamaal expressed interest in volunteering in the future. He has also offered free books to other school librarians to give to students as they shelter in place.
It has been a very chaotic and stressful time for students, as is true for students throughout the world, so we were not able to complete some of our goals. In the future some of our ideas include working with international schools (http://www.nea.org/home/37409.htm) and especially the International Association of School Librarianship (IASL). IASL has incredible resources and schools around the world with whom we could connect. Every fall, students participate in a bookmark exchange with schools in other countries. They create bookmarks (often featuring San Francisco landmarks) and we send them to an international school. Students are fascinated to learn more about other places when we receive the mail with stamps and bookmarks from another country.
One of the most unique and unexpected events during our projects was the field trip to a bookstore. Most students have grown up in San Francisco but have very limited experience with areas outside their own neighborhoods. They are often reluctant to go on field trips to “new” places. Since many have challenges with reading, they say, “I hate to read.” when they first come to the library.
Mr. Kirk and Ms. Hones met with students to plan field trips to local bookstores that sell global literature. Then students let other teens know about the trip and asked each participating student to choose one global literature book from the store to add to the library. We are so lucky that in San Francisco and the Bay Area there are unique bookstores like Kinokuniya Bookstore, Eastwind Books, Zaytana College Bookstore, Nueva Libreria Mexico, Marcus Books and Arkepelago Bookstore, the only Filipino bookstore in the United States. Due to COVID-19 shutdown we only completed one of these field trips.
In January, we drove a few short blocks to Kinokuniya Bookstore, located in Japantown, about 10 blocks from our school. We parked across the street and asked students if anything looked familiar. None of our students had been to Japantown or to this bookstore. As we walked into the building mall, students stopped to check out the bright displays of Japanese art and culture. When we got to the bookstore entrance students stopped–stunned! Kinokuniya Bookstore is a huge store, packed with books, especially manga published in Japan.
Right away students began circulating and examining books. And almost immediately, they brought books to show the teacher and librarian, “Look at this, I never knew this was a book.” “I never saw so many comics.” “Can we really get a book?” Some excitedly recognized Pokémon and manga characters.
We stayed in the bookstore much longer than we had planned. Eventually we had to go back to school and students made final selections of books to purchase. To our surprise every student selected at least one title. And when they were in the checkout line, several saw more books that looked interesting to them!
Our team met and discussed this field trip. We were astonished at the enthusiasm of the students for the books at Kinokuniya Bookstore. This unexpected experience has given us another resource for increasing literacy with students! We are hoping to plan many more bookstore field trips. It was amazing to see students who tend not to read become excited in the bookstore-something we never anticipated and would not have learned without being part of the Global Literacy program.
Aflatooni, J. (2019). The space between us. Independently published.
Anderson, N. (2020). Let’s go swimming on doomsday. New York: Penguin.
Hua, V. (2018). River of stars. New York: Ballantine.
Kuar, J. (2019). When you ask me where I’m going. New York: HarperCollins.
Perkins, M. (2019). Forward me back to you. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Rosa, S. (2015). When the slave Esperança Garcia wrote a letter. Toronto: Groundwood.
Yousafzai, M. (2019). We are displaced: My journey and stories from refugee girls around the world. Boston: Little Brown.
Online and Community Resources
Students ReBuild: An online program of global learning for K-12 students that calls on their thinking, creativity, and compassion. Part lesson in global citizenship and part art project as a whole student approach to change the world.
Kinokuniya San Francisco. Japan Center 1581 Webster St, SF, Ca 94115 (415) 567 7625.
Kay Hones is the school librarian at Civic Center Secondary. Her role at the school is collaborative teaching and mentoring teachers on pedagogy, resources, research and strategies for optimal lessons for students with a wide range of learning styles, linguistic abilities, academic & social-emotional challenges.
Author’s Note: The Global Literacy Communities received grants and instructional support from Worlds of Words for their work with teachers and students around global literature. These grants were funded by the Center of Educational Resources in Culture, Language and Literacy at the University of Arizona, a Title VI-funded Language Resource Center of the U.S. Department of Education.
WOW Stories, Volume VIII, Issue 2 by Worlds of Words is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work by Kay Hones at https://wowlit.org/on-line-publications/stories/volume-viii-issue-2/7/.
WOW stories: connections from the classroom