Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Support Your Hmong Scholars

My family immigrated to the United States from Ban Venai when I was five. My public education journey is a long-forgotten dream because I was lost for so long trying to navigate the English and Hmong culture and language simultaneously. I didn't get the help I needed at home or school because I simply didn't have the vocabulary to ask for help.

Growing up, my mother worked tirelessly throughout my childhood so that we could have a roof over our heads. My father would spend nights filling out the free/reduced lunch sheets and attaching an additional paper with more children's name on it. I attended summer school to maintain what little reading and math progress I made during the school year. I remember wearing thrift store white boots, chanting "A, a, apple," mispronouncing any two-three syllable words, and hating my parents because they couldn't help me with anything.

I didn't appreciate it then, but I see it now. Our parents did their best with what they had to support our education. Waking up and going to work was my mother's way of helping my education. Staying home and making sure all of my siblings and I were dropped off and picked up on time was my father's way of creating consistency in our life.

Now, we have to do our best to set our Hmong scholars up for success in their early elementary education years. For the most part, this means putting our children's needs before ours. In this, we have to expose our children to books as soon as possible.

Frederick Douglass says it best when he says, "once you learn to read, you will be forever free." Reading is the key to academic success and the best way for Hmong students to gain new vocabulary and experiences without leaving the comfort of their home.

As an educator, I have seen and continue to see too many Hmong children entering the school system without their foundational literacy skills intact.

I am committing myself to change the trajectory of our Hmong scholar's future by doing at least these two actions.

I hope you will too.

1. Read to your children.
I firmly believe that books are great conversation starters. Pick out a book and find out what your child knows about that subject. This is a natural way of teaching your child the things you know that you may never talk about with them. Reading to your children indirectly teaches them about how print works and help them learn new vocabulary.

2. Teach your children the alphabet.
Go over each letter and say the name and the sound it makes. Make up silly words by putting sounds together. You can create flashcards or your own personalized alphabet book. Keep a record of what letter name/sound they know so that they can see their own progress.

Don't let these two actions stop you from fully engaging yourself into your child's education. Check-in with their teacher and ask them for additional resources to target your child's academic needs. Your child will go as far as you're willing to. Dream big for them because they'll fit into it one day.
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