Prior to my arrival at Yale, I developed what became known as the Young Authors and Illustrators Project, a community engagement project that I incorporated into my L3/L4 level Spanish course at a regional university in Connecticut.
The goals of the Young Authors and Illustrators Project were: (1) to cultivate the language skills and creativity of the students in our courses through the production of bilingual illustrated children’s books; (2) to share students’ stories and perspectives of the world with children in our local community, thereby creating a bridge between our university and the community; (3) to introduce experiential, high impact learning into the teaching of language courses; and (4) to foster soft skills in our students through the collaboration with art students that was required for the successful completion of the project.
To accomplish these goals, I enlisted the assistance of the director of the Curriculum Center, who offered my students an orientation workshop on the genre of children’s books in Spanish. I also worked with the director of the Center for Community Engagement, who graciously arranged for my students to read the books they had written to children in neighboring schools and libraries. I also partnered with a professor in the art department, whose design students worked with my students to create beautifully illustrated books.
The community engagement project contributed to making the course more dynamic and meaningful to the students, since the larger objective of writing and sharing stories with children in the community motivated them to improve their linguistic skills in order to communicate with bilingual children in the local community.