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Why our college district translated kids’s books into Mixteco

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First Individual is the place Chalkbeat options private essays by educators, college students, dad and mom, and others pondering and writing about public training.

For the previous 4 years, I served as superintendent of Oxnard College District, situated 30 miles up the California coast from Malibu. However in contrast to Malibu, most of our college district’s 14,000 college students come from low-income, Spanish-speaking households. 

But, not all of our Latino households think about Spanish their first or second language. Practically 500 households reported talking Mixteco, an Indigenous language of Southern Mexico, which has scores of variants. For a very long time, although, Mixteco wasn’t represented in any of our literacy supplies, typically making it onerous for households to learn collectively. 

Headshot of a man wearing. black button-down blazer.

Regardless of the prevalence of the Mixteco language, our college students generally felt ashamed to report their Mixteco heritage or determine with their distinctive language and tradition, Argelia Alvarado Zarate, one among our college district’s Mixteco translators and neighborhood assist liaisons, advised the Oxnard faculty board final spring.  

“I used to be advised to not say that I spoke Mixteco as a result of it was one thing that we couldn’t share with different individuals who weren’t from our neighborhood,” stated Alvarado Zarate. Rising up, she stated, she yearned to have one thing in her native language to indicate that talking Mixteco was “nothing to be ashamed of.”

Trying to change this, Alvarado Zarate and others on our household and neighborhood engagement workforce determined to assist our Mixteco households and produce their tradition to life by means of storytelling. The concept to translate digital books into Mixteco first sprouted a number of years in the past at a household studying evening at one among our faculties. There, Norma Zarate Cruz, one other one among our college district’s Mixteco translators and neighborhood assist liaisons, translated a guide into Mixteco for a few of the households in attendance. 

As a result of Mixteco isn’t a written language, we needed to make some choices to make sure the best accessibility.

“They’re all the time advised to go dwelling, learn to your youngster,” Alvarado Zarate advised the varsity board. “However the identical reply that they all the time give the lecturers is, ‘I don’t know learn how to learn or write.’” 

Mixteco is a spoken — not a written — language. 

Recognizing the literacy obstacles that our Mixteco-speaking households confronted, Alvarado Zarate and Zarate Cruz approached our college board with an concept to assist these college students and their households learn collectively. They received approval to translate a few of our digital books out there on myON, the tutorial software program firm Renaissance’s digital studying platform. The app offers college students entry to digital books that match their desired language and pursuits.

A book cover with a white bear sitting next to the title of the book in the Mixteco language reading, “Tashaviun” Caáchí Oso or The Bear Says “Thank You” with a blue background.

The guide cowl of “The Bear Says Thank You,” translated into Mixteco.

We then partnered with Renaissance and labored with them to translate digital books into written (transliterated) and spoken Mixteco. Now, Mixteco-speaking households all through Oxnard have 25 books they’ll take pleasure in collectively. For the primary time, our households can take heed to tales of their native language and skim tales that recognize and protect their wealthy tradition. 

Alvarado Zarate and Zarate Cruz rigorously selected the guide titles, on the lookout for subjects that will most have interaction Mixteco-speaking college students within the youthful grades. They selected themes centered on overcoming bullying, sustaining cultural pleasure, and spreading kindness, together with “Tasha Viun Caáchl Oso,” translated from “Bear Says ‘Thank You.’” 

As a result of Mixteco isn’t a written language, we needed to make some choices to make sure the best accessibility. In every of the digital books, the textual content follows Spanish phonics, and the recording was spoken within the San Martin Peras variant of Mixteco. The audiobooks embody two acquainted voices: Zarate Cruz’s and Alvarado Zarate’s.

I understand how essential it’s to foster inclusivity, range, and an appreciation for the languages and cultures that make our communities thrive. I additionally know what it’s wish to really feel excluded as a non-native English speaker. I’m initially from Venezuela, the place I labored in particular training earlier than I started educating within the Spanish Bilingual Particular Schooling setting at San Francisco Unified College District a number of years in the past. From there, I got here to Oxnard.

At Oxnard College District, we designed a pupil profile to message the important thing traits we wished our college students to develop earlier than they graduated. Two of those traits connect with fairness, range, and inclusion, and one focuses on creating college students to be international thinkers. We would like our college students to work together and remedy issues with individuals throughout a various spectrum of races, ethnicities, and gender identities. The opposite focus speaks to college students’ growth into digital learners who carry with them a way of cultural identification and pleasure, in order they be taught to resolve the issues of the long run, they always remember the place they’ve come from.

Our Mixteco translation venture helps these objectives — encouraging households to embrace their native language. To actually replicate range, fairness, and inclusion, we all know that content material should go deeper than honoring heroes and holidays. We can’t faux that we perceive and replicate the totally different cultural backgrounds of our pupil inhabitants if we don’t elevate others who can converse to these experiences.

With this effort, Mixteco has “been given mild,” as Alberto Mendoza, a district mum or dad assist liaison, put it. “It’s been provided that house to say sure, you and your language are a part of us.”

Dr. Karling Aguilera-Fort served as Superintendent of Oxnard College District from 2019–2023. Earlier this 12 months, Dr. Aguilera-Fort accepted a task because the Website Affiliate Superintendent of Academic Providers at San Francisco Unified College District.



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