|Shreya was the photographer.|
by Shreya Vasavada, Kimberly Soto, Brittany McCauley, Vicky Pavlou
Our group had to attend two different events, one of which was Read Across America day and the other which was a Public Engagement Symposium. In order to maximize efficiency we split our group into two pairs and each pair worked on one of the event projects. Kimberly Soto and myself worked on the Read Across America project, While Shreya Vasavada and Vicky Pavlou worked on the Public Engagement Symposium. All four members of our group attended both of the events on the day they were scheduled and we worked together to carry out the activities that the events required us to perform. Also, to guarantee success, we all came together for group meetings and reported what we were working on. Everyone communicated efficiently and asked for help when needed. Read Across America was held on March 7th. For our project, we had to set up a table promoting reading in Spanish. At our table we provided Spanish books and four English books, and an activity in which kids could win candy prizes, if she/he solved a matching puzzle story. In order to create our game, we chose three Dr. Seuss books, both in English and Spanish and picked a page from each book. We created a poster of the pages and replaced all of the nouns with pictures describing them instead. The object of the game was to match the missing words to the corresponding pictures. The children were able to practice their Spanish by reading the stories we provided and playing this matching game. Some of the children knew very little Spanish, but we helped them read the poster. The Public Engagement Symposium, held on March 10th, was an event in which we had to create a booth in order to promote our Spanish 332 class and teach people what the class entails. For our booth, we made posters with pictures of the different community projects that our class offers, and we created an activity in which slips of paper with stats about our community partners were put into a bowl and people who approached our table had to choose one and decide what community program they thought the stat was about. We provided brochures people can read while passing by our booth. The brochures had more information about our class and testimonials. We had many material things on our booth, but I personally think the individuals enjoyed hearing us speak about the class,
We noticed that we were one of few booths that offered activities in Spanish at the Read Across America event and we think it was very important to include the Spanish speaking community in events like these. Also, kids learn better when they first learn to read in their native language and then are taught reading and writing in English so it is important for them to come to these events and feel encouraged to read instead of feeling left out. We were also very excited to see how some kids wanted to see the words in Spanish even though they didn’t know any Spanish. We think it’s very important for kids at a young age to become aware of language and cultural differences in a community. Since there wasn’t many Spanish booths, there isn’t many Spanish speakers attending these events. If we are able to continue creating this program, I believe we will be able to attract a different population: Spanish-speaking population. It is important to gather different activities in Spanish and English to expose a diverse crowd. The very few Spanish speakers were shocked when they saw our booth, they always stated that there is never activities for their children who speak Spanish. The Public Engagement Symposium was a great way for other community members and UIUC staff and students to learn about SPAN 232 and 332. Community member that did not know of these classes were asking us for Professor Abbott’s email so that the students could help translate for various community events. Many individuals were intrigued about our class and the great things we do for the community. Hopefully, this was a great way to promote our class and get more people involved with the community.
Through the various platforms that we were able to take part in, as mentioned in the previous section, there is still much work to be done not only on our projects but also other community projects. The Read Across America Campaign was a perfect place to be able to promote bilingualism through Spanish and English children’s books and reading activities. For the future students who take part in the campaign, it would be beneficial to have a compare and contrast of English and Spanish so that children are able to make the connection of the English word to the Spanish equivalent. This way, rather than simply matching pictures to words, they are able to start forming concrete examples and they may remember these words better. The Public Engagement Symposium was something that none of the group members knew what to expect. However, to our surprise, the setting was very formal and professional. With professionally made posters filled with figures and numbers, we felt intimidated but would like to advise next year’s students to keep it authentic! This year, the symposium gave out little booklets designed like passports. There were a select few booths listed in the passport that one must visit and collect a sticker from. Ultimately, a filled passport was the ticket to entering a raffle. One of the booths included in this passport was ours, Spanish in the Community (see attached picture of stickers). For those who stopped by our table to either chat with us and grab a sticker for their passports, we shared our personal experiences of working in the community. For future years, we would advise that the students dress professionally and are eager to share their experiences. We found that the more eager we were and the more diverse experiences we had, the more people wanted to listen. Ultimately, for the future, we hope that Spanish in the Community can reach greater heights and we are able to be a helping hand in various aspects of the community. Integrating Spanish into the community, like we did with Read Across America, is imperative to raising awareness of the importance of the language. The public engagement symposium was a great way to let others know of the work we do and also learned many other ways to be involved around the C-U area. We thank Ann Abbott for the great platforms to apply our skills not only in the classroom, but also outside! The skills and lessons learned in this course will be taken with us and applied to our careers and lives even after.