Summer Revival: Building Community Through Culture

9.30.2011

 

 

 

 

Besides the challenge to stay cool in the triple digit heat, summer also brings the challenge of keeping children busy, entertained, and engaged. This summer, in response to many Hmong families’ requests, Stone Soup in partnership with the Hmong Culture Preservation Group (HCPG) brought back the popular Hmong Culture and Literacy program. First established by Hmong college students attending Fresno State, the program addresses the problems of Hmong youth dropping out of school and becoming pressured to join gangs. The program brings together Hmong teachers, cultural experts, college students, parents and community members to serve as positive role models, sharing their gifts and talents to teach at-risk Hmong youth to value the Hmong and the American culture. 

For six weeks, over one hundred Hmong children in pre-kindergarten through high school studied the Hmong language and culture under the careful direction of Hmong teachers and cultural experts. It was not until fifty-three years ago that a written language was constructed for the Hmong who possess a rich oral tradition.  If you are a native Hmong speaker, you can become literate in 30 days.  Research shows that if you are literate in your native language it facilitates the acquisition of a second language.  In this case, Hmong children becoming literate in the Hmong language will have a far greater chance of becoming proficient in English language literacy.

Building on the Hmong value for family and community, the program focused on strengthening relationships. In addition to literacy classes, children participated in cultural enrichment classes such as drama, traditional dance, music, arts and crafts, and etiquette.  Fridays presented mini-talent performances that highlighted children’s newfound literacy skills and talents. Following the show, outdoor activities encouraged families to enjoy learning together. Together, they played traditional Hmong games such as jacks, top spin, Chinese jump rope and many others. In addition, parents met as a group every week to exchange ideas for advancing their children’s academic achievement. Most inspiring of all, Hmong youth came away from the program proud of their history and heritage.

The Hmong Culture Preservation Group consists of teachers, researchers, and community members passionate and committed to a shared vision:  Hmong people have healthy identities built around their rich and vibrant culture, which serves as a foundation for being respectful, responsible, productive and caring citizens.

Thank you to the following supporters who made this program possible:  Fresno Unified School District Parent University, The California Endowment, Wells Fargo Foundation, The Kathleen Founder’s Fund, and First 5 Fresno County. A big thank you to all our parents, volunteers, and teachers who gave their time, passion, and talent.

Textbook used in teaching Hmong literacy entitled:  Cag Txuj Ntawv Hmoob text and workbook published by 3hmoobpublishing.

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