Bilingual Books Increase Parent Engagement in Dyersville Schools

Research shows that learning begins long before a child enters kindergarten. Children—even infants—soak up words, rhymes, songs and images. Vocabulary development is particularly important.

But what if parents at home don’t have access to books they can read in their native language?

This is a problem partners in Dyersville realized parents of English as a Second Language (ESL) students faced. Many ESL students didn’t have access to books at home. And to make matters worse, while many of the ESL students did speak English, their parents did not—leading to a gap in reading at home.

To address this need, the Dyersville Campaign for Grade-Level Reading received a Black Hills Energy grant to receive bilingual books. ESL teachers at Dyersville Elementary and St. Francis Xavier partnered with Scholastic to select books for various ages to create a shared library between both schools.

“We try our best to help our ESL parents become an integral part of their children’s education,” says at St. Francis Xavier Resource Teacher/ESL Coordinator Amy Vorwald. “It not only benefits our current ESL students but it also gives the parents books to read to younger children at home.”

Students are able to check out books from a revolving library and take their favorites home to build their personal library. This new collaborative initiative will allow parents to engage and interact with their students in a way they were not able to before.

“When I shared the books with my students for the first time, big smiles came across their faces and they each shared how excited they were about the new books, saying things like, ‘My mom and dad can read this to me!’ After giving out the books, many of my students came back the next day and proudly told me they read the book and couldn’t wait to pick out a new one to take home,” says Dyersville Elementary English Language Learner Teacher Laura Scherbring. “Being able to send books home with students, especially bilingual books, and provide them with the opportunity to build their love for reading is such a great experience to witness, and we are so grateful everyone who made this possible.”

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