BHSU international students recently read books in their native language to local elementary students.  Pictured from left to right, front row, are Chantal Ligtenberg, Sturgis Elementary School; Rilda Means, Spearfish; Kie Tatsukawa, Japan; Khulan Ulziikhutag, Mongolia; Raki Takami, Japan; Kihong Kim, Republic of Korea; Karolina Kausylaite, Lithuania. Back row: Mallory Moon, Maple Lake, Minn.; Rusty Wienk, BHSU international program coordinator; Mikayla WhirlwindHorse, Spearfish; Oscar Bengtsson, Sweden; and Jorge Aguilar Zamora, Mexico.

Rilda Means, MalloryMoon, and Mikayla WhirlwindHorse read in the Lakota language.

A group of Black Hills State University international students recently took local elementary students on a journey around the world through the pages of well-known children’s books.

The BHSU students spent two nights this month at local elementary schools reading to students and families in the language of their home country. The events were part of Meade School District’s “Reading Around the World” family engagement nights. Nearly 500 students, parents, family members and school personnel attended the two events.

“The events were designed to get kids and their families more interested and excited about reading,” according to Mike Isaacson, BHSU dean of students.

Janis Anderson, intervention teacher at Sturgis Elementary School, asked Isaacson about including international BHSU students at the family reading events.

The family engagement nights are held each year to encourage teachers, parents and community members to work together to support the learning and growing of students, she said.

“We wanted to promote literacy around the world, “Anderson said.  While the Meade School District hosts a family engagement night each year, this is the first time it has collaborated with BHSU.

Anderson said they chose two books, “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Three Little Pigs” that were well-know to the students. “We wanted the students to hear these books in different languages and realize that everyone is reading everywhere,” she said.  

Nine countries, eight from BHSU, were represented at the family nights including Japan, Mongolia, Republic of Korea, Peru, Republic of Vietnam, Lithuania, Sweden and Mexico. Three BHSU students also read in the Lakota language.

“It was a very impressive night. Teacher sand community members got to see our international students and learn about our international program,” Isaacson said. “It was a great opportunity for BHSU staff and students to do some outreach within the community.”

Both Anderson and Isaacson hope to collaborate on future projects. “I think there is a good possibility of this becoming a tradition,” Isaacson said.

Anderson said they may have the BHSU international students come next year for their family math engagement night. “The whole part of interacting and knowing students around the world is great for the students and their families.”

BHSU has a growing international student population with 53 students from 16 countries.