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Raising Children to be Multilingual and Global Citizens

I am a proud mom to Zoe (5), and Brendan (3), and a new little one arriving in September!  I have a personal passion for learning new languages and cultures that I seek to instill in my children at an early age.  Professionally, I am an educator with teaching certificates in German, English as a Second Language, and Social Studies, with a Masters in Foreign Language Education, but my motivation and true belief in raising children to be multilingual and global citizens began long ago when I was a child.

I grew up in a small town in Northwestern Pennsylvania in an English-speaking household.  My community was not very diverse, and there were very few opportunities to genuinely experience other languages and cultures.  During this time language learning was not as “in vogue” as it is now. I credit my mom with her persistence seeking out language lessons, immersion camps, and eventually international travel and exchange trips to expose myself and my siblings to the rest of the world. As a child, I did not appreciate enough the logistical and financial burden of finding German tutors, signing us up for language correspondence courses, or sending us to out-of-state camps or trips to Europe.  Thanks to my mom, however, I am now fluent in German and currently studying Spanish. My brother speaks German and Italian and lives with his family in Germany, and my two other sisters speak Spanish and Italian. All of us are not only fluent in at least one other language, but now have a broader perspective of the world, and our role in it!

As I raise my own children, I have many more resources within reach, between living in a diverse community, to virtual resources, as well as financial.  My husband and I made the decision to expose our children to Spanish at the age of 1, so they could achieve the full cognitive benefits of learning a language at such an early age.  As our children grow, we hope to eventually expose them to culture through travel and other authentic experiences. As a family, we concluded that the easiest route to language immersion at such young ages was through hiring Spanish-speaking caregivers in our home.  We have had 3 wonderful women love our children, and impart their love for their countries of origin upon our children. As a parent but also a language teacher, it has been fascinating to see the language acquisition occur directly in front of me, and become aware of my children’s’ capabilities!  I have to admit, my own language skills have also greatly improved!

Since we began this adventure, both children have proven to be quite proficient in listening skills and are able to understand nearly all of what their caregivers say.  They are also able to respond in Spanish, though sometimes with encouragement (they know their caregivers understand English, so they aren’t always motivated to respond in Spanish).  I am excited to see them develop their language skills, but also feel pressure to continue their language exposure and acquisition, which gets more difficult as they enter the public-school system.  

 

Our oldest daughter began kindergarten 5 weeks ago. Unfortunately, her elementary school, while fantastic, (like most elementary schools), does not offer languages. Two other schools she could attend do offer Spanish a few times a week, but her proficiency is far beyond learning colors, numbers, and animals.  There is one private immersion school that would be a great fit for her abilities, but is out of reach financially. We are left pursuing her language skills as an extra-curricular. We do this through occasional babysitting by Spanish-speakers, TV-shows in Spanish, and playdates, but it isn’t enough. While I know her language skills may “come back”, it is still difficult to watch them recede, and I continue to look for opportunities.

This is my personal, and family’s experience learning and valuing language learning, but I am frequently reminded of families who do not have the resources, motivation, or energy to pursue a second language, or even their native language!    As an ESL teacher, I frequently saw students become reluctant to speak Spanish with their parents, or their parents lament their lack of reading skills, proper grammar, pronunciation in their native language. I can’t imagine how heartbreaking it must be to watch your own children lose their ability to speak with you fluently.  In addition, I feel it’s such a shame for them to lose their ability to speak Spanish in their future as a potential job skill!

The many benefits of learning a second language have been research-proven over, and over, yet are still undervalued in the educational system.  As a country, we are light-years behind the rest of the world in terms of language abilities! As a parent and educator, I am committed, advocating for more language learning access for our youth in our community and schools.  I hope, with time, that my progressive and diverse community and public school system will see the merit in offering more world language offerings to its children, so that all children can benefit and become global citizens.

"Health is a fundamental human right:" Why we sued the Trump Administration

Leana Wen's picture
Person with long hair, wearing a white doctor's coat, smiles at the camera.

Recently, we in Baltimore City filed suit against the Trump Administration for intentionally and unlawfully sabotaging the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I am gravely concerned for the wellbeing of my patients, my city, and millions of individuals who are finding themselves unable to afford health care.

As an emergency physician, I’ve seen first-hand what happens when people are priced out of coverage. I’ve seen a mother leave behind her three children, because she had no insurance and wasn’t able to have a lump in her breast examined when she found it. She died a year later. I have an endless number of stories similar to this one. This mother, and countless others, could be here today if she was able to seek treatment earlier. We shouldn’t be losing loved ones to conditions that can be treated or even prevented. Put simply, access to insurance saves lives, and the ACA allows that access.

At the Baltimore City Health Department, we offer many safety net and essential health services for uninsured Baltimoreans. We already operate on a shoestring budget, and increasing the uninsured rate will place an even greater burden on programs already short on resources. It will make us either incur additional costs, or force us to reduce our ability to care for the most vulnerable. How we will decide what services to cut? Reproductive health care? Addiction treatment in the midst of an epidemic of opioid overdose deaths? Or should we look to cut HIV/AIDS treatment, dental and oral care, hypertension detection, or cancer screenings?

Health is a fundamental human right. Access to quality, comprehensive, and affordable health care should not be a privilege reserved for only the wealthy. The Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the ACA are bad for health and bad for the economy, and they are immoral and unlawful. We will continue to fight for accessible and affordable health care and never waver in our commitment to provide care to our most vulnerable residents.

See this post on my Facebook page.

How You Can Connect with your Member of Congress at a Town Hall

Town Halls are one of the most effective and direct ways to engage a member of Congress, as well as a crucial way to garner local media attention in districts that traditionally read local media only. This platform also allows for individuals to motivate other voters to hold incumbent members of Congress (MOC) accountable. Town Halls are one of the unique grassroots aspects of our democracy, make sure you exercise this crucial democratic right! 

5 Tips for A Great Town Hall

1. Get in Touch BEFORE the Townhall with the representative’s staffer in district or DC. 

  • Example Email or Call: “Hi, I’m a constituent, and I’d like to know when his/her next town hall forum will be.” 
  • If they don’t know,  ask to be added to the email list so that you get notified of any future town halls. As a constituent, you can also urge your member of Congress to hold a town hall if they don’t have any planned.

2. Prepare well beforehand and organize other MomsRising members in your district. 

  • Let us know that you will be attending a town hall so that we can share that information with other MomsRising members, and also share it on our social media channels. You can get in touch with us about your plans by emailing keepmarching@momsrising.org.
  • Collect and share information about how your member of Congress has voted on issues that are important to you. Make sure you share this information with all members attending the town hall.

3. Prepare your questions in advance.

4. Make sure to inform and connect with your local press! 

  • Connecting your town hall issue to local press is the most effective way to leverage your voice in the community. 
  • Go on Google News and find out your town/city’s local reporters who have already written articles on your MOCs. Make sure to check their twitter and facebook to strengthen the relationship. 
  • Reach out before the town hall and explain what you are doing and why you are using your voice. 
  • Journalists, especially local ones, appreciate these type of stories and are always on the lookout for easy material for an article. 
  • Make sure to take videos yourself and share with them after and to your own network!

5. At The Town Hall

  • Be clear and thoughtful with MOCs, even those you disagree, but also make sure to be persistent and get your questions answered! Demand real answers from them and do not let them dodge your question (they are very good at it!) 
  • Do not return the mic until you are 100% satisfied with the answer your representative gave. If the staffer at the townhall objects, then say politely but loudly: “I’m not finished. The MoC is dodging my question. Why are you trying to stop me from following up?”
  • Bring pressure throughout the entire event. After one member of the group finishes, everyone should raise their hands again. The next member of the group to be called on should move down the list of questions and ask the next one.
  • Reinforce the group message by clapping to show that the feeling is shared by the audience. Whenever someone from your group gets the mic, they should note that they’re building on the previous questions — amplifying the fact that you’re part of a broad group.

Find a town hall near you!

Please visit https://townhallproject.com/ to find an updated list of town halls near you!

  • Rep. Darin LaHood, IL-18 Tue, Aug 21, 2018 6:00 PM, CDT 1301 S 48th St, Quincy, IL 62305
  • Rep. Darin LaHood, IL-18 Fri, Aug 24, 2018 2:00 PM, CDT, 618 S Sangamon Ave, Gibson City, IL 60936
  • Rep. James Comer, KY-1 Fri, Sep 7, 2018 5:00 PM, EDT 231 Court House Square, Liberty, KY 42539
  • Rep. Bradley Byrne, AL-1 Mon, Aug 20, 2018 3:00 PM, CDT 11610 US-90, Grand Bay, AL 36541
  • Rep. Joe Wilson, SC-2 Tue, Aug 21, 2018 9:00 AM, EDT 1235 Columbia Ave, Irmo, SC 29063

We are the leaders we’ve been looking for

"We are the leaders we’ve been looking for." ~Grace Lee Boggs All of us. We can do hard things. And we don’t need to wait for anyone to tell us how to do them.

Our national rolling hunger strike launched on July 30th in Oakland, CA. This movement is in solidarity with the migrant families separated and incarcerated by our government. It was inspired by the mothers hunger striking inside Port Isabel Detention Center to demand the right to speak to their children on the phone. Let that sink in. Incarcerated mothers. Refusing food for days at a time. To demand the right to speak to their incarcerated children. On the phone.  

The why behind this strike is important. And so is the how.  This strike is happening because one passionate and compassionate woman in Oakland posted on Facebook and said, “What if we did a hunger strike in solidarity with these mothers?” Neither of us had ever organized a hunger strike before, or any national action for that matter. Still, the two of us talked on the phone and then we got to work. Then more women and men joined us. And they got to work. Eleven cities across the country are hunger striking in August alone and twenty-three more cities are in the planning stages.

I organized and participated in the hunger strike in Santa Cruz, California, which took place August 5-7. Those three days were a truly beautiful experience.

Fasting with four other women for a cause we all deeply care about was moving beyond words.

We laughed, we cried, we talked about birth, death, sex, motherhood, daughterhood, grief, love, and everything in between.

The incarcerated mothers and families stayed in the forefront of our minds.

When fasting became difficult, we looked around at our support and our privilege. We talked about how unbearable the fasting must be from the inside of a prison, not knowing where your children are, or if you’d ever see them again.

We thought of mothers and children that face food scarcity as a daily reality.

It’s all connected.

Parenting is harder when you’re hungry. 
Working is harder when you’re hungry. 
Articulating your thoughts is harder when you’re hungry. 
Regulating your emotions is harder when you’re hungry. 
Physical tasks are harder when you’re hungry. 
Everything is harder when you’re hungry.

Or poor. Or criminalized. Or oppressed. Or abused. Or scared.

Our system has created unbelievably difficult circumstances for people of color and punishes them for being in the very circumstances we created.

We need immigration reform. 
We need criminal justice reform. 
Amends. 
Reparations.

We need the dismantling of patriarchal, heteronormative, white supremacy.

We are the leaders we’ve been looking for. All of us. We can do hard things. And we don’t need to wait for anyone to tell us how to do them.

#hungry4justice

Check out our website to get involved: www.solidarityhungerstrike.com

Parents Can Keep Children Safe from Dangerous Products With This Important Resource

As a pediatrician, I do everything I possibly can to keep children safe and healthy. One important part of that is counseling parents on what they can do to protect their children from dangerous products and unsafe toys. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of products that pose serious harm to children, such as toys with small parts that are choking hazards, dressers that can tip over, and products with strong magnets that can cause severe damage if swallowed.

Sometimes, these are every day products that you would never know could be harmful or even life-threatening. 

In fact, in 2016 there were over 62,000 injuries associated with nursery products in children under 5 treated in emergency departments, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). 

Today marks the 10th anniversary of a landmark law that has made great strides to keep children safe – the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Importantly, this law created the SaferProducts.gov database, which allows members of the general public, like you and me, to report dangerous products and also browse reports from others. 

Whether you are shopping for a baby shower or planning to buy a new household item, the SaferProducts.gov database provides a wealth of useful information that helps us to be smart consumers. It also gives us the needed peace of mind that we are buying products that are safe for our children. 

Using SaferProducts.gov to confirm the safety of toys, cribs, and other household items can be quick and easy. You can go to the “Search Recalls & Reports” tab and click on the links under “Browse These Popular Categories” to check product safety. Categories include babies and kids; sports and recreation; home; toys; and fire and carbon monoxide hazards. 

It is also important to remember – the more information reported, the more useful the database, and parents have an important role to play in making that possible. Reporting products that harm children can help keep other children safe and parents informed. Doing so only takes about 5 to 10 minutes! 

To file a report, go to SaferProducts.gov and click “Report An Unsafe Product.” This will allow you to include product and incident details, information on individuals involved and recall details. Photos of the product, injuries or damage to property can also be uploaded. After that, product manufacturers receive a copy of the report and can respond; all comments then are published at SaferProducts.gov.

You can also make a report through the CPSC telephone hotline: 800-638-2772; or by fax to 855-221-6466 or via mail to; Attn: Clearinghouse; 4330 East West Highway; Bethesda, MD 20814-4408. 

We can all play a part in reporting unsafe products and remember to use the database as a helpful resource when making a purchase; it’s one step that can go a long way to keeping our children safe! 

QUICK SIGNATURE NEEDED to protect food stamps!

Every once in awhile something uplifting and amazing happens in Washington, D.C.— and when that special something happens, it’s likely because moms, dads, and concerned people like YOU have spoken out!

That’s what’s currently happening with the piece of policy (the Farm Bill) that funds and legislates important nutrition assistance programs like SNAP (or food stamps). We had a victory in June when the U.S. Senate passed a bi-partisan Farm Bill that protects SNAP.

We need YOU to help us keep this momentum going!

***SIGN our letter to the U.S. Congress now asking them to protect SNAP in the Farm Bill!

Here’s what’s going on:

The good: The U.S. Senate heard your outcry against any harmful changes to food stamps, and voted to protect SNAP in their version of the Farm Bill. On top of that, Republicans and Democrats are still standing firm on their commitment to protect SNAP as the Farm Bill moves forward in conference committee. That type of bi-partisan commitment is not seen very often these days, and it’s because of people like you who have written, called, shared your stories, and spoken out on the importance of SNAP to our families and our economy that has urged Senators in this direction.

The bad: Things are totally different on the House of Representatives’ side. The House GOP leadership refused to listen to moms, dads, and other constituents who spoke out against their destructive Farm Bill, which takes away SNAP from millions of families and enforces strict work requirements. Despite the fact that the Farm Bill was defeated on the floor of the U.S. House in May, they scheduled a revote of the bill in early summer, which passed by a narrow margin.

The hopeful: Because the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill are so completely different, they are going to a Conference Committee to work out the differences. Even though President Trump is putting the pressure on Republicans (through Twitter of course!) to pass the horrible, terrible, and unnecessary work requirements, so far the Senators on the Conference Committee are standing strong and saying they will not accept any bill that has
additional barrier to access, especially in the form of work requirements. (Note: work requirements already exist in SNAP for some recipients. What’s being newly proposed though will fundamentally change this vital food assistance program forever and would be truly harmful to millions of families, not to mention our economy).

We need you to continue to speak out and keep the pressure on our members of Congress so when they get back in September from their summer recess, they will move on a Farm Bill that protects our families and the programs that assist them in their time of need, like SNAP.

***Join us in speaking out by adding your signature to our letter to the U.S. Congress on SNAP and asking them to support the Senate-version of the Farm Bill!

SNAP is a major lifeline to millions of families around the country. In fact, SNAP helps 1 in 8 Americans across the country afford groceries, including the 1 in 4 children who live in food insecure households. SNAP also lifts up families in communities across the U.S.: 36% of SNAP recipients are white, 25% are Black, 17% are Hispanic, and 3% are Asian. Families using SNAP live in every district in the United States, so our elected leaders have no excuse to not speak up for their very own constituents.

And perhaps most important to know right now is the fact that the majority of SNAP recipients already work! Fact: Most adults on SNAP work. More than half of SNAP households with at least one working-age, non-disabled adult work while receiving SNAP — and more than 80 percent work in the year before or after receiving SNAP. Among those who are not working, most report illness or disability, caregiving responsibilities, being recently divorced or escaping an abusive relationship, or going to school as a reason for not working.

We don’t need harmful and unnecessary work requirements in SNAP. We need policies that boost our families and our economy during difficult times!

Help us keep the momentum going so struggling families get the nutrition assistance they need!

***Sign our letter to the U.S. Congress telling them to support SNAP and the Senate Farm Bill!

We are going to deliver your letter to Congress the first week in September when they return from their summer break and we want to make as big an impact as possible. After you sign our letter, please forward this blog to your friends and family and post our action link to Facebook so we can collect as many signatures as possible.

Thank you for being a powerful voice for our families and economy!

P.S. Your stories are part of the reason we have been so successful in protecting SNAP! MomsRising is launching a new storytelling series called We Are MomsRising, where we will be telling stories about how programs (like SNAP) help working families and the realities of being a mom in 2018—the good, the bad, and the hilarious! Check out one of our first stories by Alabama mom Heather about how her family was lifted up by SNAP during a difficult time. Do you want to be part of this exciting new project? Awesome! You can share your story here.

TELL CONGRESS: No more tax cuts for the 1%!

Brainstorm with me for a second….what are some things the moms of America need?

-Paid family and medical leave

-Quality, affordable childcare and healthcare

-Good schools and parks for our kids

Here is one thing the moms of America definitely DON’T need: Another GOP-Trump Tax Scam that benefits the 1% and Wall Street and reduces federal revenues so our federal government can’t afford to pay for the things we really need.

***Sign our letter now telling the U.S. Congress stop proposing harmful tax cuts that mostly benefit billionaires and mega-corporations and instead
give the moms America tax policies that boost working families!

Here’s what’s going on: Despite the fact that the so-called Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed in December and only supported by Republicans, is wildly unpopular, the U.S. House of Representatives’ GOP leadership and President Trump are trying to pass a second tax plan before the election—or what we like to refer to as Tax Scam 2.0. The House GOP leadership, led by Representative Kevin Brady, claim that their newest tax plan is going to fix glitches that were in the first
bill, but in reality it tilts the majority of the benefits to the 1% by making the 2017 individual tax provisions permanent. This would deliver far larger tax cuts to the top 1% than the bottom 60%. In addition, it makes permanent pass-through provisions that benefit the exact types of businesses run by the Trump family, while at the same time further ballooning our national debt. There is close to nothing in there for our working families. See why we call it a scam!?

Never one to shy away from doubling down on the awfulness, President Trump and his Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are “exploring” ways to bypass Congress and grant a $100 billion capital gains tax cut to the mega-wealthy—a move that is likely not even legal and would surely end up in the courts. The Wharton School of Business (Trump’s own alma mater) found that Trump’s plan to index the capital gains would overwhelmingly benefit the richest of Americans. In fact, two-thirds of the benefits would go to the super, duper wealthy—the top 0.1%.

We know that the first round of the GOP-Trump tax scam hurt our working families and our economy. Only 4% of workers so far are getting a bonus or wage hike due to the December tax cuts while Congress keeps trying to raid programs that lift working families like SNAP (food stamps) and Medicaid to try to offset reduced federal revenues due to the first tax scam. Corporations are giving huge windfalls to their CEOs and wealthy shareholders in the form of stock buybacks instead. Companies from Harley Davidson to Kimberly-Clark (the makers of Huggies and Kleenex) have been announcing major layoffs at the same time as spending millions of dollars in stock buybacks. And who does the stock buybacks benefit? The wealthy of course— who have already seen a windfall in tax breaks from the Trump-GOP tax plan.

President Trump and his GOP cronies promised that the benefits of the tax plan would “trickle down” to working families, but as we have learned time and time again, trickle down economics does not work. In fact, it’s almost as if the opposite of what they have promised is happening. These broken promises matter because even prior to the Trump-GOP tax plan being passed, workers were experiencing a historically low share of corporate income.

We don’t need a Tax Scam 2.0. Instead we need tax policies that create fairness, don’t add to our national debt, and put working
families first, not Wall Street.

***SIGN our letter to the U.S. Congress calling on them to repeal the tax cuts for millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations and instead
pass tax policies that boost working families!

The time to speak out is NOW! House Republicans plan to spend their August recess trying to sell their unpopular plan to voters, in the meantime poll after poll show that it is unpopular. When they return in September, they plan to vote on the GOP-Trump Tax Scam 2.0. We want to have our letter waiting for them on their desks when they return to Washington, D.C. to let them know that moms, dads, and concerned people don’t like their tax plan, don’t want more cuts for the 1 percent, and won’t stand for these harmful and incredibly unfair policies any longer.

After you take action, please forward this blog to your friends and family and post our action link to Facebook. The more of us that speak out, the louder our message will be when Congress returns to D.C. in September.

Thank you for continuing to speak out for our working families and the economy!