Still from Cinco Monitos video.When COVID-19 restrictions derailed her Spanish for Health Profession class’s regular partnership with local health and dental clinics to provide translation services, WSU Vancouver’s Cassandra Gulam quickly pivoted the scope of the service-learning project to aid the South Sound Reading Foundation (SSRF).

Located in near by Lacey, Wash., SSRF provides family education programming and reading engagement and incentive programs to ensure that every family has the tools they need to help their children learn to read. One concern for SSRF is the families they serve speak Spanish, but the books families are given are written in English.

To help bridge this gap, Gulam’s students created videos of themselves reading selected children’s books intended for kindergarten through 2nd grade students in Spanish. The project allowed students to work on their recordings asynchronously while classes were held online.

Nicole Nichols, SSRF AmeriCorps VISTA member stated, “The videos provide support for Spanish speaking parents to enjoy books with their children in a way that celebrates Spanish speakers, supports English learners and encourages literacy in general. We also love the opportunity to expand our availability of Spanish translations to expose all students to a variety of cultural influences.  We firmly believe that more diversity and cultural sharing will only make us stronger and more connected in our community. We have had a very positive experience with WSU in all our student interactions.  And the staff have been both helpful and encouraging in their support of our collaboration.  We are truly grateful for the chance to work with them.”

The goal of the project was to provide Spanish speaking children and families access to literature in their native language to increase their motivation to read and engage with each other, support literacy skills, build vocabulary, and spark curiosity in literature.

Student reader Alyn R. said the project made her more aware of the lack of availability of translated stories. She said it was challenging to accurately translate some words or phrases because there is not a direct translation available that delivers the same meaning and evokes the same response.

This project provided the opportunity for the WSU students to develop their translating skills in a meaningful way and remove the language barrier in the literature resulting in families having the opportunity to share a reading experience.

Another student, Gisela Medina-Tovar, said “The process of translating and reading stories made me realize how the pandemic has greatly affected children. My reading enthusiasm could help distract the child for a moment and get into a different and curious story world.”

This service-learning project is an example of how students are interrupting the dynamics of access and equity of literature, addressing a community identified need, and simultaneously gaining a deeper understanding of course content through community engagement.

Top photo: Still from Cinco Monitos video.

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