Write Our World: Bilingual ebooks by kids, for kids

Dan KempLanguages

WoW. That’s Write Our World.

It’s hard to believe that it’s nearly 5 years since we were first introduced to Julie Carey and her Write Our World project. Since then, the fledgling project has gone from strength to strength. We caught up with Julie recently to get an update and to provide an introduction for those who’ve yet to hear of their work.

Some important questions

What would it be like to have an online space where kids around the world could learn about human diversity directly from one another? What if they could revitalize their own languages, develop biliteracy, and deepen a positive sense of identity in the process?

Better still, what if they could create a body of diverse reading materials in low-incidence languages that could serve as an educational resource and cultural archive at the same time?

These are the questions that, through the support of Book Creator and others, led to the birth of Write Our World. To date, over 400 youth in 6 countries have created close to 200 digital books in 27 languages.

Authors have included Mayan teens in the Guatemalan highlands; refugee students and their parents in a family and community engagement program in Aurora, Colorado; elementary students in Islamic schools representing 7 countries of origin; and many more. WoW works to help multilingual kids make connections between their home and school while building skills for their future.

Two Somali girls cutting paper for their illustrations

Somali girls at The Bridge Project in Denver, Colorado create illustrations for their book. (2016)

The books that children create through Write Our World are all ‘Identity Texts‘. This term was developed by Jim Cummins and Margaret Early. They researched how teaching can change when the definition of “literacy” is expanded to include multilingualism and emerging technologies.

These technologies empower marginalized, multilingual learners by inviting them to share about themselves and their culture at school. Some books are biographies of parents, others describe cultural traditions such as recipes, clothes, music and dance. Still others are simply narratives from the author’s life, sharing an important event, such as an immigration story.

A Nepali girl holding a crayon with her mother watching her

Nepali girl and her mother co-create a bilingual ebook through a Family and Community Engagement project in Aurora, Colorado. (2017)

Books are created by students on their own, or by working with their peers across languages or even involving family members. They are a way for students to see their ideas represented in both their heritage language and the language(s) of the school. As a teacher, you do not have to be able to speak students’ languages for identity texts to be created and used in your classroom.

All the books are created with Book Creator, are both written and recorded bilingually, and include original illustrations, photography or video. They are then submitted to us for publishing in the Write Our World library.

A membership provides access to the complete library and a selection of teacher resources. But you can view a sample selection of these amazing books below.

Julie and her team are developing an inter-generational storytelling curriculum for Family and Community Engagement in schools that serve a high population of refugee and immigrant children. This will become available by January 2020. They also offer training and support services for teachers to adapt Write Our World to their population and learning objectives.

Could your school benefit by having students’ voices heard as published authors in the Write Our World library? You can learn more at WriteOurWorld.org and reach out anytime with questions or ideas to julie@writeourworld.org.

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