The International Book Project launched the Books as Bridges program in 2007 to meet the growing need for higher reading levels and greater cultural awareness in Kentucky. Since its founding the program has expanded to engage students in six other states as well. Books as Bridges pairs local classrooms with an overseas partner classroom, providing a unique opportunity for cultural exchange to occur. The students write and send three (or more) letters to each other over the course of the academic year, reaching greater depths as time passes. The increase in detail not only allows for an organic friendship to develop, but also strengthens the writing skills of the students. The program goes beyond letter exchanges to amplify learning for students. The Books as Bridges Coordinator creates and delivers a personalized cultural literacy lesson to participating classrooms in the US. These lessons include a presentation on the history of their partner country, as well as information about modern life and culture. Lesson staples include a traditional craft lesson and a sampling of food native to the partner country. For example, middle school students at Edythe J Hayes, partnered with Ghanaian classrooms, learned to play a simple rhythm on the djembe and had the opportunity to sample fried plantains.
International partner classrooms receive small shipments of books to help grow their school libraries. Students also exchange a cultural package during the school year, including pictures and small trinkets and toys that represent life in their respective country. Local students are encouraged to act on their compassion and design a project that they can execute themselves, such as writing persuasive letters on behalf of their pen-pals to local businesses for school supply donations or organizing book drives for International Book Project shipments. These service-learning projects benefit both the international recipient and the local classroom by creating an environment for sharing and learning.
In the 2015-2016 academic year, we had 50 participating classrooms, ranging from 2nd to 12th grade, in the US. 46 of those classrooms were local, including KY counties such as Scott, Harlan, Knox, Fayette, and Madison, and 4 were from Pennsylvania. Our international partners included classrooms from Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, Bulgaria, Kosovo, and Taiwan. 2,694 students were served in total (1,347 US).
We are currently accepting applications for our 2017-2018 Books as Bridges program.
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