Ask Mrs. Jillian Woychowski what she wants and the answer is always “books!”
That might be an expected answer for a school librarian, but Mrs. Woychowski is on a mission to update the print collection at West Haven High School, while making sure to include the cultures and languages represented by the diverse population of her student body, including Spanish-speakers. Of the school's students, 34 percent identify as Latino, and many are first-generation Americans.
Mrs. Woychowski welcomes the donation of new or gently used books, but she also encourages readers to donate both books and time to their own local school or public libraries.
If you have any Spanish-language or Latino-themed books aimed at young readers, they can be dropped off to West Haven High School or someone can arrange a pick up.
Their most needed genres are fiction and memoir (English and Spanish), but certainly non-fiction focusing on Latino history, culture and contemporary issues are welcome, too.
"All of our new memoirs in Spanish have been added to the collection," Mrs. Woychowski said on her Donors Choose page. "I am so happy this was right at the time our senior English classes will start checking out individual memoirs to read after reading When I Was Puerto Rican in their classes."
She is hoping to expand her collection of novels and memoirs in other languages soon.
Her student reading level ranges from about fourth grade to Advanced Placement/College.
Last school year, she obtained 10 novels in Spanish through Donors Choose, which sit above her fiction section, marked with a green S to help her English learners find them. She’s currently adding several memoirs in Spanish from the same program. At West Haven High School, all seniors in English IV are required to read a memoir.
Mrs. Woychowski says she’s long identified herself as a “walking United Nations” of ethnic heritages. Add in a brother-in-law from Mexico, another brother-in-law from the Philippines, and an uncle from Portugal, and she knows the importance of including other cultures and languages in our everyday world, which of course includes the libraries.
As schools face budget crunches, library portions are often eaten up by technology costs, which makes sense in our digital society. But books are still of vital importance, too! It’s a proven fact that students do better in literature courses when they see themselves in the stories. For English learners, having curricular-aligned books to check out in their native language may be the key to success.
Literacy is necessary for being a productive member of society. Volunteering time such as reading at a toddler story hour, helping at a resume writing class, or speaking on a vocation or cause are all ways to support local libraries, especially those serving predominantly Latino communities.
For monetary donations, checks can be written to West Haven High School with "Library" in the memo line (we have an account through the School Student Activity Fund). Donations are tax deductible.
Many Connecticut urban school systems lack resources for Latino students, but for today we are focusing on West Haven High School, where Mrs. Woychowski is going above and beyond to prepare Latino students for the future.
For more information, call Diane Taylor at the library, 203-937-4360 extension 7317, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Packages can be sent to WHHS, McDonough Plaza, West Haven, CT 06516.