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Parents inspire preschoolers with stories from home

When Linda Chugani turned the teaching over to the parents of her Head Start students, the results were richer than she could have imagined. 

Moms and dads from 19 of her 20 families took the time to tell their stories and teach the children a bit about their homelands.
 
Layla’s father, Abdi, said that he hopes to return to his native Somalia some day and reopen the family’s bed-making factory. Melika’s mom, Fetia, regaled the children with a funny Ethiopian folktale about a man who was only invited to a wedding party when he put on his fancy clothes. 

Brandon’s mom, Sue, from Laos and Thailand, demonstrated dance movements and sang a lullaby in her Khmu language. Cindy’s mom, Kim, related how, as a girl growing up in Vietnam, she was bitten at various times by a dog, a monkey and a snake. 

“The whole thing was so special,” says Linda, who displayed the stories, along with maps and photographs of the presentations on a wall outside the classroom. 

The banner over the top says, “We learn from our families!” 

Most of the families in Room 2 come from the East African countries of Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea or the Central and Southeast Asia countries of Hong Kong, Vietnam and Laos. They speak more than half a dozen languages. 

Since the presentations in January and February, the children have delighted in finding their parents’ countries in an atlas and on a globe (one little boy does it daily).
 
They also have lost their shyness about speaking their home languages, says Assistant Teacher Theresa Kwesele. 

Some of the parents have shed their shyness as well, says Linda, who conceived the project as a way to make parents feel welcome and comfortable in the classroom.
 
Several came up to her after their presentations and said, “I had so much fun!” Linda says. “It made them feel really good.”