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Books as Bridges
Books as Bridges: An International Book Project Classroom Experience
The International Book Project launched the Books as Bridges program in 2007 as a response to the need for higher reading levels and greater cultural awareness in Central Kentucky. Local classrooms are partnered with classrooms of IBP M-bag recipients, providing a unique opportunity for students to learn about foreign cultures while sharing their own. Just as our founder Harriet Van Meter would have liked, Books as Bridges students develop friendships with their pen-pals and become more excited about writing and learning, especially with assignments related to their international peers.
Books as Bridges for Classrooms
Participating teachers in the U.S. receive the following:
- a toolkit featuring basic information about their partner country and ways to implement the program into the classroom
- a disposable camera to share “Everyday Life in the U.S.” with their pen-pals
- a set of Peace Corps World-Wise Schools resource books with sample lesson plans
- a presentation of a cultural literacy lesson relevant to their partner country’s culture
The cultural literacy lesson is administered by the Books as Bridges Coordinator and is based on Kentucky Department of Education Academic Expectations. Among many other activities, students learn their partner country's culture by creating a 3-D map, experiencing the cuisine and etiquette, and comparing the foreign culture to their own. Books as Bridges teachers have found the lessons to be very effective involving the classroom and creating an interest for their pen-pal’s way of life.
Books as Bridges is a service-learning program. Participating students engage in service to their community by sending letters and packages to their peers in developing countries, therefore building global friendships. Some classrooms strive to go above and beyond this service. As the students learn about life in their partner classroom’s developing country, they often feel compelled to help their international friends.
We encourage the classrooms 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. While someone on the other side of the world learns that someone else cares, a child in Kentucky learns of their own potential to make a difference.
Interested in Books as Bridges?
Teachers - If you would like your classroom to be a part of Books as Bridges, please fill out the application and email it to the Books as Bridges Coordinator. While we do accept applications through August for the following year, the number of classrooms is limited by funding.
Service Learning Coaches - Books as Bridges would like to provide SLCs to the classrooms that have the desire to implement comprehensive service projects but lack the time and ability to work out the details. Upon teacher approval, the SLC will be assigned to a classroom and meet with the students/teachers whenever necessary. He or she would help the students realize their potential to make a difference.
Culture Experts - If you are from, or are particularly familiar with, the culture or region of a Books as Bridges partner country, we would love to have your help! We strive to make the classroom cultural literacy lesson as authentic and accurate as possible. Someone with experience from the region is invaluable to the experience. The culture expert meets with the program coordinator to plan the lesson, and then attends the lesson to offer the students a real-life experience with their partner country’s culture.
Service-Learning Grants - To further encourage service-learning projects, Books as Bridges is working to secure funding that will allow us to offer grants to classrooms that can create a project benefitting their partner classroom. If you would like to sponsor a grant, please contact the Books as Bridges Coordinator.
Out-of-State Expansion - Books as Bridges is becoming a popular program for schools outside Kentucky, as well. Currently, out-of-state classrooms can participate in Books as Bridges by completing our online application and submitting it along with the $200 administration fee. This fee funds the book shipment for your partner classroom in the developing world. Please contact the Books as Bridges Coordinator for more information.
For more information about the Books as Bridges Coordinator, check here. Or, you can go to the Books as Bridges website.