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The Little Village Brings Language Justice into the Classroom

For the founder of The Little Village,  Rebecca Gartner, making her on-site early learning center at The Village Institute an inclusive multilingual space is not a luxury–it is a necessity. Thanks to a mini grant from Early Childhood Leadership Commission (ECLC) to support early childhood organizations in increasing the quality of their communications efforts she was able to make progress. 

The Village Institute has supported single mother refugee families in Aurora since 2019, and, as explained on their website, its priority is to “ensure refugee and immigrant women and families are at the forefront of [the] program design, decision-making, and leadership.” One way that Gartner does this in her work is by incorporating dual-language development into a multicultural curriculum. 

“My First Words” is one of nearly 40 children’s books purchased in multiple languages.

From the time she submitted the grant application, Gartner knew that her focus needed to be on language justice. Just Communities describes language justice as creating situations in which “all languages are valued equally and speakers of different languages benefit from listening to and sharing with one another.”

Gartner used mini grant funds to work toward language justice in her early learning center. She purchased books in 27 languages for her toddler and preschool classrooms and bought multicultural toys and decorations that represent different countries, cultures, ethnicities and abilities. Children see themselves represented in their classrooms and teachers now have the tools they need to promote dual language development. “You don’t need a diverse group of children to have a diversely represented classroom. It’s so important for children to see these other races represented in their toys, to see other languages represented in their books,” Gartner said. 

Language Justice Outside the Classroom

Beyond incorporating multilingual books and multicultural toys and decorations in her classrooms, Gartner also translated enrollment forms and other notifications, like school closure notifications, into 10 other languages, which is a foundational way to improve communication with parents and caregivers. 

In the Early Childhood Communications Efforts in Colorado report, which was endorsed by the ECLC, all three recommended strategies (noise reduction, quality and engagement) depend on being able to communicate with families in a language that they understand. By translating her enrollment forms, Gartner is enabling future refugee families who speak languages like Arabic, Farsi and Swahili to understand that there is a place for their child in her classroom. And once the child comes into her classroom, she has books and toys that will remind them of that fact each and every day.

Below is a list of books The Little Village has filled their classroom with: 

Alicia’s Happy Day (Span/Eng PB)
Animal ABC: Bilingue/Bilingual (PB)
Babies, Babies (Spanish/English)
Backpack Baby (Span/Eng)
Beach Socks (Spanish/English)
BW Opposites (Span/Eng) New
The Cats of Mrs. Calamari (Spanish/English)
Clean Up, Up, Up (Spanish/English)
Fish to Feed, A (Spanish/English)
Good Night, Little Sea Otter (Brd)
Humbug Witch (Spanish/English)
In The Dark Cave (Spanish/English)
Jacob’s Little Sister (Spanish/English)
Loving Me (Spanish/English)
My Big Brother (Span/Eng PB)
My First Words Outside (Span/Eng)
Piggy in My Pocket (Span/Eng)
Rosa’s Very Big Job (Spanish/English)
Show Me How To Be A Friend (Spanish/English)
Show Me How To Use The Potty (Spanish/English)
Show Me How to Visit the Doctor (Spanish/English)
Show Me How You Feel (Spanish/English)
BW Animals to Count (Amharic/English)
Carry Me (Amharic/English)
Hip, Hop (Amharic/English)
Where’s the Baby (Amharic/English)
Are You My Baby? (Arabic/English)
Eating the Rainbow (Arabic/English)
My Face Book (Arabic/English)
My First Words at Home (Arabic/English)
What’s in My Garden? (Arabic/English)
When Someone is Afraid (Arabic/English)
Who Lives Here? Pets (Arabic/English)
Animal Colors (Bengali/English)
My Face Book (Bengali/Eng)
OSC 1 0 Good Night, Little Sea Otter (Burmese/English)
My Face Book (Burmese/English)
My First Words at Home (Burmese/English)

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