Pearce is the federal programs curriculum and instruction coordinator at Rio Rancho Public Schools, where she supports English language development coordinators and teachers of world languages in her district, which is just outside Albuquerque. She was among twenty-nine educators attending the “Identity and Multilingualism through Picture Books” summer institute held earlier this month.
Funded by a $175,000 grant from the National Endowment for Humanities, the project aims to enrich early elementary curricula by exploring the use of picture books to enhance the development of second-language learning and identity formation. The institute was led jointly by Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and Director of Latin American, Caribbean and Latinx Studies Margaret Boyle of Bowdoin College and her Bobcat colleague Krista Aronson, who is professor of psychology and associate dean of faculty at Bates College.
The work is a partnership between Boyle’s program Multilingual Mainers—established five years ago as a partnership between Bowdoin undergraduates and PreK-2 students and families in the local community of Brunswick, Maine, and Aronson’s program Diverse Book Finder—a comprehensive collection of children’s picture books featuring Black and Indigenous people and people of color (BIPOC).
The first half of the two-week event was held online, while the second week involved in-person activities on the campuses of Bates and Bowdoin. “We explored how picture books support work in multilingualism, identity, second language acquisition, and cultural knowledge, bringing together a cohort of passionate educators from Maine to Hawaii,” said Boyle. “The range of home languages in our teacher classrooms was proof of the vibrancy of multilingualism across the US.”
One highlight, said Boyle, was a conversation with the celebrated author and illustrator Raúl the III—creator of the World of Vamos book series—about Mexican American representation in children’s literature via language and illustration.