Weaving Hmong culture through literacy

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Every culture has a different story to tell that builds America into the melting pot it is today. Students throughout Stevens Point elementary schools are getting a unique taste of these tales that promote literacy and culture.
The UW-Stevens Point Student Education Association (StWEA) received a $1,000 Community Learning Through America’s Schools (CLASS) Grant, which funded Hmong literacy books for donation to local classrooms and hosting read-aloud sessions.
CLASS Grants are earned to perform community service projects designed and organized completely by students. StWEA’s proposal stated: “The Stevens Point Area School District has an increasing enrollment of students with diverse backgrounds, which presents the opportunity to promote awareness of the Hmong culture.”
“It goes very well with our character education,” said Kim Johnson, a second-grade teacher at McKinley Center and UW-Stevens Point alumna.
McKinley Center is the first of the many Stevens Point schools that will receive book donations and a read-aloud.
Though understanding different cultures is important, it is equally important to understand the similarities they share. John Lenz ‘13, a member of StWEA and broad field social science education major, compared the story Hmong story “Gao Zoua Pa” to common fairytales such as Cinderella and Snow White.
As part of the grant, StWEA partnered with the UW-Stevens Point’s Hmong and Southeast Asian American Club (HaSEAAC). HaSEAAC members participated in the read-aloud dressed in traditional Hmong clothing to showcase their culture and taught the elementary students the Hmong tradition of storytelling through a paj ntaub or story cloth. The children got a chance to create a paj ntaub drawing Hmong symbols to depict their own stories about family, food and hobbies.
“I do things with them, but it’s different me telling them compared to someone coming from the university,” said Johnson. “It shows what possibilities they can do when they grow up and graduate.”

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