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Lamar Unveils LISD World Language Library

Students across the district now have access to a growing collection of books in nine world languages.

Few things can create connections quite like the love of reading. Now, for Lewisville ISD’s already large and always-growing population of emerging bilingual students, creating these connections is more accessible than ever before.

The LISD World Language Library, hosted at Lamar Middle School, recently opened its shelves with a selection of 673 books available in nine different languages. These languages, chosen to meet the needs of LISD’s largest language groups, include: Arabic, Chinese, French, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian and Vietnamese. More languages are planned to be added in order to better serve the district’s roughly 9,000 emerging bilingual or ESL students.

Lamar was chosen to house the World Language Library thanks to its central location within LISD, and due to its rapidly expanding population of emerging bilingual students. While the library is based at Lamar, students from all campuses will have the opportunity to check out books through their home campus library media specialist.

“Last year we had a lot of students come in from different countries – namely Ukraine and Turkey – and we were trying to find books for them to read,” explained Lamar library media specialist Ronica Hutson.

“It was a long, arduous process that we were just kind of overwhelmed with. I had a discussion with Trela [Weesner], our library director, and together we came up with this idea of creating a centralized library where all of our emerging bilingual students can check out books in various languages and it’s not up to each individual librarian to build a collection in all of the different languages that we have here in LISD.”

As the idea began to take shape, the next step was to acquire funding for the project.

Together, Hutson and Weesner worked with LISD’s ESL department to secure $20,000 from an ESL Title III grant. According to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), Title III “aims to ensure that English learners (ELs) and immigrant students attain English proficiency and develop high levels of academic achievement in English.”

“We have so many ESL students across the district, but for one campus to have a collection like this that can actually meet the needs of students, it’s really difficult,” explained Weesner. “Partnering with the ESL department allowed the Library Media Services Department to gain Title III funds and then we took it and ran from there – so without ESL this would not have been possible.”

When it came time to select the books for the World Language Library, everyone involved agreed on the importance of choosing well-known titles that resonate with all middle school students.

“The books that we chose are books that are currently popular with our English-speaking students because it’s not only about getting books in a student’s native language, but about that connection with their English-speaking peers'' explained Hutson. “For example, The Hunger Games series – I’m looking at that in Korean – that series is very popular and if we have a Korean-speaking student who is also reading it, they can have a discussion, and they can connect with their peers over that book. It’s huge as far as socialization, connection and culture are concerned.”

Marcie Crow, who teaches ELA and ESL at Lamar, described the excitement that her students felt when they found out about the World Language Library.

“I have a student from Korea and when [Ronica] said that they have books in Korean, his eyes got big and he said, ‘Ms. Crow, they have books in Korean?’ Since then, he’s been checking out books three at a time and just plowing through them. He’s so excited! I have another student who loves Baby-Sitters Club. She's watched it on Netflix five times, and now she’s plowed through the whole series in Spanish.”

Vanessa, a 7th grader at Lamar and a native Spanish speaker, expressed her joy with the selection of books available at the World Language Library.

“I’m so happy because last year, we didn’t have these books. But right now, we have more books. Last year was so, so hard because I didn’t understand English, but right now I’m so happy!”

This excitement and delight, and the inclusivity that it helps students feel, is what Weesner says the project is about.

“Students need to be able to read a book in their home language, and that can make a connection to another kid that maybe doesn’t speak that language."

Crow agrees, explaining the impact that something so seemingly simple can have on a student’s education.

“It says to them that we value your home language. We’re not asking you to leave who you are behind. We’re not asking you to leave your language behind. We just want to add to it when you’re here and help you be successful in English as well. We want you to bring who you are, your culture and your language along with you, so having books in their native languages reinforces that.”

Plans are already in motion to expand and maintain the collection at Lamar, as well as to create an elementary and high school level World Language Library within the district. 

From the beginning, Lewisville Independent School District has committed to ensuring all students are confident, equipped with the knowledge and skills to thrive and adapt for their future. Follow Lewisville ISD on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see more student experiences throughout the school year or visit Best Schools in Texas for more information about joining the LISD family.