Dana Darrow, Nancy Duffy, Sharon Flesher-Duffy, Lisa Yates
Through this class, we have often mentally placed ourselves in the shoes of our English Learners (or New Americans, as they are increasingly being referred to) and their families. We think of how it would feel to come to a new place: with high expectations, with longing to try something new or with hope of escaping a hard life. We think of how hard it would be to fit into a new world, one in which the rules have changed from what “I” have grown up with. And we wonder how it would feel to walk in those shoes. We wanted to find a project that would ease that transition a bit. Additionally, when discussing our community support professional interview assignment, we recognized how many fabulous services that Nashua offers. Consequently, we decided to create a coloring book including many places that offer services (both fun and necessary) to people in the Nashua community.
So what services should we include? In a study by Cecilia Ayón, focus groups including a total of 54 first generation Latino immigrants were led in dialogues to learn what types of services that they would find critical to their wellbeing. These interviews resulted in a list of resources that these interviewees felt would be helpful including: mental and physical health care, education, information and support services, and community efforts. One of those interviewed said, “Well more than anything [we need] information because often you pass through different circumstances and you don’t know where to go or who to ask for help… a lot of the times you don’t hear about anything unless your neighbor tells you and if he doesn’t want to tell you well then you’ll never know.” (Ayón, p. 119) Consequently, we looked for services that would fall into these categories.
When Sharon worked at a children’s museum years ago, one of her tasks was to teach a mother/tot program. The goal was to offer some activity for the children while imparting information to the parents. Now this isn’t a simple task, and it isn’t a perfect way to address either of those goals, but by teaching parents and children simultaneously, it created a way to impart information that was painless – or as Krashen might say, acquired. This was the seed of this project – How can we offer information that we can direct toward children that will be beneficial for families. It needed to offer visuals, something fun (and possibly a way for parents to keep their children occupied while the parents worked with professionals within one agency or the other), and contain information that would offer connections to services, and service agencies that would make our families’ lives better.
In designing this coloring book, we looked at what Nashua has to offer; especially what we thought might be fun and important information and services for families new to this area. We made a long list of potential pages, then culled the list down to a manageable number – we chose to exclude retail establishments (except for the Lucky Dog Thrift Shop – it sells second hand clothing and the money earned goes to the Animal shelter). We wanted to offer some guide words in various languages on each page, and talked to one of our ELL teachers about this (Myosin), and determined that we should try to add words in Spanish and Portuguese as those are our most highly spoken languages. Adding a few words in those languages would offer a touch of home for many of our English Learners and their families. Each page offered a coloring picture (to help identify the building or service if a family went there), a descriptive title, and critical information such as URL, address, and phone number. We were careful not to add information that varies (such as hours which change seasonally for some places) to allow the document to be consistently accurate. Some pages offer specific content, for example, the page about the fire department offers a coloring image of a fireman. Firemen may look scary to a child in a smoky environment when they are fully suited up and masked. We wanted the children to see this up front – just in case. We also added both the non-emergency number and 911, to offer children and parents some exposure to the two different numbers. Throughout the document, we kept the language and images simple and the information useful. We hope this information is helpful for our targeted audience including new families to our area. We added a brochure, at this time offered in English, to share with our high school students. Our interactions with high school students are most often face-to-face so the information in the brochure would be offered in a scaffolded manner, definitely for content, maybe for language.
We distributed these coloring books (and crayons) to various agencies including: Nashua School District – Central Office, Lucky Dog Thrift Shop, Nashua Adult Learning Center, St. Joseph Hospital, Harbor Homes, Catholic Charities, and the Nashua Soup Kitchen. Each agency was given the book in two formats – a stack of coloring books, and a thumbdrive containing the pages. They can hand these to families as a whole book or as single pages. We felt that this would be best, so that families could get the whole pile of information at once, or just some information that is targeted to meet a specific need. We wanted the presentation to be flexible. (The brochure will also be on the thumbdrive, but it was mainly designed to be used at the high school in our own environments.) Each agency was appreciative for the book and interested in using them with families.
“I got the best surprise in my mailbox today. I absolutely love the Resource Guide and coloring books. What a great idea.” –Sharon Dalton, Adult Learning Center