COLIN CORNEAU/ BRANDON SUN
Teng Yue Wang gives some student-produced books to a teacher during a signing ceremony at École New Era School on Tuesday. Wang was one of the students to write or illustrate one of nine books, in support of multilingual literacy for English language learners. The books will be in all Brandon School Division libraries.
As Teng Yue Wang flips through a copy of the book she made, you can’t help but notice her excitement.
Amy Buehler holds one of the dual-language books created by Brandon secondary students during a signing ceremony at École New Era School on Tuesday. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Wang, a Grade 6 École New Era School student, moved to Brandon from China four years ago and says her book, "Chinese New Year," written in both Mandarin and English, brings her favourite time of year to life.
"I miss Chinese New Year, like when I think about it, I want to cry so I was happy to write this," Wang said.
Wang is among eight other New Era students who voluntarily spent more than a year producing their own dual-language book.
The professionally printed books are part of a dual-language book project that New Era teacher Amy Buehler started two years ago.
The project was seen as an opportunity to create some valuable dual-language resources while providing students with the opportunity to strengthen their literacy skills in their first language and in English.
Some of the books are in French, Spanish and Mandarin, but all have the English translation.
Although she wrote the story herself, a teacher helped Wang with the English translations, and some of the original artwork in the book was made using construction and wallpaper clippings.
"I tried lots of times, but I just can’t do it," she said, referring to her drawing skills while pointing to a picture of a yellow road leading to a brown house. "So it’s very hard for me and the doors were hard."
When asked about her favourite part of the book, she quickly turns to a page with a picture of perfectly shaped Chinese dumplings placed neatly in a bowl.
"I love to eat dumplings and inside here every Chinese New Year they have some money, like 50 cents, $1, $2 … and who eats it out gets to keep it."
Another important ingredient when it comes to Chinese New Year celebrations are fireworks.
"Everyone in China will buy lots of fireworks and when we finish eating the dumplings, we’ll start the fireworks and it’s very fun."
Buehler got the idea for the project following a conference she attended in Toronto about celebrating linguistic diversity.
"Two of the sessions were about dual-language books … because literacy skills translate from one language to the other, it’s really important for newcomers to keep their first language and keep developing those skills," she said. "It’s part of their culture, identity, but also helps them learn English language skills."
Students were able to select their own topics, which range from music to their home countries, while they came up with their own form of style and illustrations for the colour hardcover books.
Besides creating opportunities for students, the project has also resulted in valuable resources for the school division, which covered the cost of printing 50 copies of each book. And English as an Additional Language resources are hard to come by, Buehler said.
"Especially in Mandarin … they are very expensive," she said. "It was a way to build multilingual resources in the school division."
Students and teachers involved with the project hosted a book signing at New Era on Tuesday afternoon, giving friends and family members a chance to check out all the books.
When asked if she was excited to share her book with others, Wang admitted she was a little nervous.
"It’s very exciting … but I’m a little shy because this is my first time writing a book."
But Buehler assured her she has nothing to worry about.
"The students who did the books are extremely proud of what they’ve done," Buehler said. "They take great pride in what they’ve accomplished."
Books are $20 each and proceeds will go toward future book projects.
Copies of each book are also being given to all of the school division's libraries, with an additional set being donated to the Brandon Public Library.
Copies of the books can be purchased through Buehler at New Era.
The project has also continued into the new school year and a number of new books are nearly ready for publication.
Future plans for the project include encouraging more teachers, students and schools to get involved.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 18, 2013