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    Families, Students, and Partners Co-Create Somali Alphabet Book in the Name of Identity Safety
    Posted on 08/15/2017
    Somali students co-creating an alphabet book

    Identity Safety and Eliminating Opportunity Gaps

    Recently, more than a dozen students from Wing Luke Elementary, Mercer Middle and Cleveland High schools, a handful of their parents, and staff from several local organizations sat together at tables inside a Seattle Housing Authority community center to tackle serious questions about culture and identity. How could they integrate their Somali customs, beliefs and traditions into their day-to-day lives – especially their classrooms? How do they honor their parents, grandparents and the generations before them, while embarking on their own, new paths here in Seattle?

    To many, finding answers to questions like those might seem intimidating and daunting at best, unworkable and impossible at worst. For the children? Well, they nailed it. Their answer is to co-create a Somali Alphabet Book for other children. 

    A collaboration between Seattle Public Library, Seattle Housing Authority, Seattle Public Schools and the Somali Family Safety Task Force, the book will include cultural symbols and artwork that represent each letter in the Somali alphabet and will eventually be printed and circulated citywide. 

    The book also accomplishes several goals. It will fill a lack of culturally relevant Somali children’s books in circulation, honor Somali parents as teachers, encourage learning and reading at home and further grow the district’s efforts to create classrooms that culturally reflect all of our students.

    Identity Safety

    Creating identity safe classrooms is a top priority for the district. When children see themselves, their culture and their traditions reflected in their classrooms, their teachers and their administrators, they feel more welcomed, supported and valued. Acknowledging students’ identities, rather than trying to be colorblind, can build a foundation for strong, positive relationships and lead to success in the classroom and in life.

    Eliminating Opportunity Gaps

    The Somali Alphabet Book is one example of how the district is working with partners and families to eliminate opportunity gaps (EOG) for all students. Much of the district’s EOG work involves identifying and building effective, culturally sensitive and responsive bridges in order to arrive at a common destination of success. We are working with Seattle’s Somali community and other communities to identify more areas of collaboration to break down barriers and create positive connections and engage families and students in positive ways.

    Over the next month, the Somali students and their families will meet with a Somali facilitator who is also a community member to share and build off each other’s ideas. We will keep you updated on their progress.

    Follow the progress and learn more about the district’s strategy to eliminate opportunity gaps.

    Partners and families involved in project

    Photo of Somali families, students, and partners planning the Somali Alphabet Book