Teen Read Week at our school, Findlay High in Findlay, Ohio, has become a time when the library opens wide its doors and invites in a huge variety of people to come share themselves with the school. Last year this included culinary students one day and a menagerie of animals another day. This year we are bringing together the international students from a local university together with our high school students to explore language and culture in a variety of ways in our library.
The networking that comes about from coordinating these events is fantastic. I made contact with the Japanese Outreach Initiative Coordinator at the university. This contact has opened up the opportunity to involve Japanese exchange students to our programming events. The more the merrier! The JOI Coordinator also asked if we would be interested in having a Korean student do a bit of programming, and we were thrilled to welcome her, as well. Once we connect with the student organizations when they return to campus, we will include students from India, Saudi Arabia, and Nepal, as well.
As a high school with 82% of students identifying as White, in a city where 91% of the population in the 2010 census identified as white, there is not a lot of opportunity for students to talk to and learn from people who grew up in other countries and speak different languages. This experience will be good for our students, and I hope it will be enriching for our staff, as well.
The cognitive, social, and emotional benefits of a diverse culture in a school building are well-documented, but if we in Findlay are going to reap those benefits, we have to be creative, reaching out beyond out school walls. I hope the teachers and staff at FHS will take time from their schedule to bring their classes or drop by during their planning time to learn and take part in the demonstrations and watch the presentations. I also hope teachers will network with the students from the university to bring about even more collaboration and cultural sharing.
In a world where hate and divisive issues flood our newsfeeds, any chance to build empathy and compassion for the humans we share the earth with is an effort worth making. I am very appreciative of YALSA and their support in this coming together in our community.
Amanda Brasfield is a Librarian at Findlay High School in Findlay, Ohio and a 2016 Teen Read Week Grant Recipient.