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Children’s Books Teach Literacy and Preserve Vietnamese Culture, Language

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What it’s like to be Vietnamese in America or celebrate Tết — the Vietnamese New Year — are topics of new children’s books that Natalie Tran hopes shed light on languages not commonly taught, diverse student populations and early childhood literacy.

Cal State Fullerton’s National Resource Center for Asian Languages, which Tran directs, has published 13 new illustrated children’s books in Vietnamese, to support Asian language teachers and their students, and encourage children to retain use of their native Vietnamese language. Each book was written by a local student and illustrated by CSUF art students and alumni.

Tran will read one of the books with her children at 2 and 7 p.m. Oct. 15 on the CSUF YouTube channel.

“We have received positive responses from P-12 districts, community language schools, and parents supporting Vietnamese world language and dual language programs in the U.S.,” said Tran, chair and professor of secondary education and director of the doctoral program in educational leadership. “They appreciate the authenticity of the books, which are written for children and by children.”

The children’s books are part of the center’s Community Literacy Project, which launched in 2017 to provide valuable resources to support Vietnamese literacy and preserve Vietnamese culture and language, Tran noted. The 25-book collection represents voices of first- and second-generation Vietnamese Americans and their experiences in America. 

The new books, all with the theme, “Our Community,” tell stories about the people, places and events that take place in Orange County’s Vietnamese community, including Little Saigon in Westminster. One of the books is bilingual, “Being Vietnamese in America.” 

The National Resource Center for Asian Languages, launched at CSUF in 2014 with a $700,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education, is one of 16 language resource centers in the nation. A second, four-year, $684,000 grant was awarded in 2018.

In response to the pandemic, the center recently launched a series of webinars, conducted in English, Vietnamese, Korean and Khmer, to support distance learning.

Additionally, the center is partnering with Californians Together through project EL RISE! over the next two years. Supported by a $150,000 award, the center will provide professional development for Asian language teachers statewide, focusing on instructional strategies that support emergent bilingual or multilingual students.

For Tran’s tireless work in promoting Vietnamese culture and language, she was recently recognized as one of the 2020 “Women of Distinction” in the arts-cultural diversity category by Sen. Thomas J. Umberg (D-Santa Ana), who represents the 34th Senate District.

About Cal State Fullerton: The largest university in the CSU and the only campus in Orange County, Cal State Fullerton offers 110 degree programs, and Division 1 athletics. Recognized as a national model for supporting student success, CSUF excels with innovative, high-impact educational practices, including faculty-student collaborative research, study abroad and competitive internships. Our vibrant and diverse campus is a primary driver of workforce and economic development in the region. CSUF is a top public university known for its success in supporting first-generation and underrepresented students, and preparing all students to become leaders in the global marketplace. Visit fullerton.edu.