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November 2009

Dear Subscribers,

This month, we are focusing on ELL parent engagement. We know that connecting with parents of ELLs presents many challenges, since they may be overwhelmed from navigating a new school system and becoming familiar with a different set of expectations all in a new language. We hope the following ideas spark some creative and productive conversations in your school community about ways to empower parents and draw from their strengths as partners in their children's education.

Don't miss our interview with educator Annie Mai, who has made huge strides in connecting with Vietnamese parents through a weekly Vietnamese radio program. As a former ELL, she is also able to offer insight about the experiences that newcomer ELLs go through when adjusting to a new country and finding their place in a new school and group of friends.

All the best for a happy and safe Thanksgiving,

The Colorín Colorado Team

In this issue:


This month's highlights

American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month

American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month is a great way to celebrate the rich history and culture of Native Americans. Don't miss our American Indian Heritage booklist or the Reading Rockets' Native American stories booklist!

Thanksgiving Tales

The books on this bilingual Thanksgiving Tales list offer a wide range of perspectives on Thanksgiving, from those of early Native Americans and Pilgrims to modern reflections about the things for which we are thankful.

Take a look at the booklist's new selection, Duck for Turkey Day, by Jacqueline Jules, which provides an opportunity to discuss how families from different cultures view or adapt the traditions in the places where they are living.

Featured Resources and Articles

Reaching Out to Hispanic Students and Families

In this section, you'll find ways to effectively reach out to English language learners (ELLs) and their families, as well as a bilingual parent toolkit created with the American Federation of Teachers. All of these resources share the ultimate goal of improving your students' English, literacy, and academic achievement.

Also, don't miss this new video clip with ELL middle school teacher Amber Prentice, in which she discusses many ways to connect with ELL parents and to encourage family literacy.

Parents in the Picture

This article from the National Education Association offers ideas for creating meaningful partnerships with parents, including tips on ways to welcome immigrant parents to the school.

Honoring Family in the Classroom
By Alma Flor Ada and Rosa Zubizarreta

In this article excerpt, Alma Flor Ada and Rosa Zubizarreta suggest an innovative but practical technique for helping parents engage in a meaningful way with their children and their children's schools. Teachers send home questions or dialog prompts designed to encourage parents to share stories about their own life experiences with their children. These stories then become the basis for classroom discussions about students' cultures, and they can also be used to generate meaningful classroom curriculum activities.

Excerpt from "Parent Narratives: The Cultural Bridge Between Latino Parents and Their Children," Chapter 14 of The Best for Our Children: Critical Perspectives on Literacy for Latino Students (Teachers College Press, 2000).


Research and reports

In Understanding Latino Parental Involvement in Education: Perceptions, Expectations, and Recommendations, Maria Estela Zarate provides a unique look at Latino parents' involvement in their children's education from three distinct perspectives: parents', teachers', and children's. Of particular interest is Zarate's discussion of Latino parents' focus on what she terms "Life Participation" in relation to education. This involves a broader interpretation of "educación," to include such areas as encouraging the child in his/her aspirations, teaching morals and respect for others, and providing advice on life issues. This report is a must-read for anyone interested in strengthening their school's connection with Latino parents.

* To view this file, you'll need a copy of Acrobat Reader. Most computers already have it installed. If yours does not, you can download it now.

Book Review

Building Parent Engagement in Schools
By Larry Ferlazzo and Lorie Hammond

This book from Larry Ferlazzo and Lorie Hammond offers a new model for parent engagement, particularly in schools with high minority and/or ELL populations. The authors argue for engagement as opposed to involvement, in which parents become leaders, active participants, and stakeholders in the school community, and they suggest that this approach can in fact energize the school staff and families. The book profiles a number of successful parent engagement efforts in which the authors have been involved, which include home visits, family literacy programs, community gardens, and community organizing.

Ferlazzo, L. and Hammond, L. (2009). Building Parent Engagement in Schools. Santa Barbara, CA. Linworth Press.

Purchase book from Amazon.com* >>

Proceeds from the sale of books purchased at Amazon.com help support Colorín Colorado.


In the classroom

Bright Ideas

Parents are often one of the most valuable untapped resources in the school community, and this is especially true of parents of English language learners. In Parent Bilingual Volunteers, Judie Haynes discusses the role parent volunteers can play both inside and outside the classroom, and she also gives step-by-step instructions for getting a parent volunteer program started in your school!

Frequently Asked Questions

ELL teachers may wonder how best to bridge the language barrier in order to improve communication with students' families. If you're looking for ways to connect with ELL parents, the following FAQ may be of interest:

Find the answers to this and many others in Frequently Asked Questions about Teaching ELLs.


Beyond the classroom

From the Heart: Annie Mai

Annie Mai, a former teacher and curriculum specialist, is an educational consultant who hosts a weekly radio program for Vietnamese parents in California's Garden Grove Unified School District. Annie came to the U.S. from Vietnam as a child, and has a special perspective on the challenges that ELLs — and their parents — face. In this exclusive interview with Colorín Colorado, Annie describes her experiences adjusting to life in America, what her parents went through once they arrived in a new country, how the Garden Grove Unified School District's radio program has transformed parent participation in her school district, and what the parents in her district really want to know about the U.S. educational system.

Book of the Month

Tan to Tamarind: Poems About the Color Brown
By Malathi Michelle Iyengar
Illustrated by Jamel Akib

This collection of multicultural poetry celebrates the color brown and all of the delicious and familiar places it can be found, from the reddish-brown mountains of the Southwest to the tamarind paste used in Mumbai to the acorns found on a city street. Author Malathi Michelle Iyengar also uses the poems to express an appreciation for the many ethnic backgrounds who describe their skin color as "brown" around the world. Jamel Akib's warm drawings are a perfect complement to the poetry. A wonderful selection for fall!

National Center for Family Literacy: New Bilingual Resources

The Parents + Schools = Successful Children project is a series of bilingual foto-novelas for parents, accompanied by a practitioners' guide for teachers and tutors and audio-enhanced versions of the foto-novelas.


Major support provided by AFT

Book of the month

"Congratulations — your material has been a tremendous help to develop reading and writing abilities for kids with cognitive disabilities."
~ Monica H.


Tip sheets - minipromo

Ed Extras

About the Colorín Colorado T·ELL·E-GRAM and ColorinColorado.org

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