Ambassadors for Childhood
ACEI extends its gratitude to the 2014-2016 cohort of Ambassadors for Childhood. The following account provides an inspiring example of the amazing work our Ambassadors have been doing.
Ambassador for Childhood
Through the Ambassadors for Childhood program, an initiative within the Decade for Childhood, children’s experts work to improve the lives of children by advocating on their behalf and encouraging organizations to consider children in their decision-making.
Anita Pandey began her term as an Ambassador in 2014. She is a professor of Linguistics and Coordinator of Professional Development and Communication at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Anita also serves on the Executive Board of the National Association for Bilingual Education, and as Education Advisor to The Unforgotten, a nonprofit organization that sends children (primarily girls) in Zambia, Sierra Leone, India, and Nepal to school, and provides mico-loans to their careproviders (mostly mothers) to help them become self-sufficient.
During Anita’s tenure as an Ambassador, she has been advocating for educational equity, inclusion, and relevance (of instructional resources) to children’s primary cultures and lives, enhanced cultural understanding, and global competitiveness through biliteracy and bilingual education at the local and national levels. In “Using Mother Tongues as Building Blocks in Childhood Education,” published in ACEI’s Childhood Education, Anita discusses how to use students’ heritage languages to empower students and make learning more meaningful.
Anita was born and raised in a bilingual home in Africa, where she saw firsthand the power of multilingualism in building and sustaining community. With her family constantly on the move, she picked up Hindi, English, Yoruba, Hausa, and Nigerian Pidgin in her childhood, and learned French and Spanish as a teenager--primarily from children, as outlined in her first book, The Child Language Teacher: Intergenerational Language and Literary Enhancement. This book illustrates the language-literacy facilitative skills of children and young adults, and shares her personal journey of empowerment—once her mother enlisted her as her English teacher, when Anita was in second grade.
Anita argues that a single language limits one’s understanding of diverse languages, cultures, individuals, and communities. In her latest book, Language Building Blocks: Essential Linguistics for Early Childhood Educators (Teachers College Press), she offers strategies to enhance teachers,’ parents,’ and administrators’ language and cultural competency, while focusing on pronunciation, and culturally inclusive vocabulary, reading, math, science, and even health literacy for all students.
Anita enjoys sharing the stories of marginalized children around the world. In a 2014 issue of Childhood Explorer, she wrote about the many challenges undocumented children face in the United States. Her piece, “Pero Extrano Mi Mama: Immigrant Children Lost in Transition,” shares the story of a Honduran father and daughter.
Most recently, Anita helped start the Howard County African American History Project (HCAAHP), the latest addition to the Howard County Historical Society. In her role as a Director of the HCAAHP, Anita aims to give a voice to those who were voiceless in the pre-Civil-rights era. To this end, she has been interviewing elderly residents, documenting and sharing their early childhood and schooling experiences in segregated one- and two-roomed schoolhouses, such as the historic Colored School in Ellicott City, Howard County, Maryland. She has also gathered eyewitness accounts of a 1965 rowhouse fire on Main Street, Ellicott City, that killed 31-year-old Phyllis E. Owens and four of her five children. She directed and co-produced (with Tyrone Tyler) a mini documentary titled The Fire Next Door that revisits this tragedy—which eventually paved the way for sociopolitical change and community uplift.
Anita commends the ACEI for supporting her research and outreach, and for the organization’s dynamic leadership, global reach, focus on diplomacy, and mission of ensuring quality and accessible childhood education worldwide. She would like to take this opportunity to thank the ACEI and the Alliance for Childhood for the opportunity to serve as an Ambassador for Childhood. She found the role to be a valuable “call to action,” reminding her that words without action are meaningless. As an Ambassador for Childhood, she shared research and recommendations with stakeholders, neighbors, fellow educators, community leaders, and policymakers.
Anita has enjoyed sharing ACEI’s message and life-altering publications, including Childhood Education and Childhood Explorer. Doing so has helped her actively pursue the following objectives:
- Educate teachers, administrators, and parents about the building blocks of language, the foundation for success in literacy and content in early childhood and beyond
- Emphasize the instructional value of play/peer interactions and observation, and their impact on language and literacy success
- Enhance educators,’ administrators,’ and policymakers’ understanding of the importance of including the voices of children and their families in instruction and assessment
- Demonstrate and reiterate the value and need for early dual language instruction--specifically mother-tongue-based instruction (also termed “one-way bilingual education”)
- Identify gaps in “word gap” studies and propose a shift in pedagogy and assessment beyond just labels or terminology to what she terms conceptology (i.e., concept knowledge, which is not always lexically realized in every language variety) and to advocate for culturally inclusive vocabulary instruction and other forms of professional development for P-12 teachers, caregivers, and administrators
- Spark interest in heritage languages and home dialect revitalization for so-called “English language learners” and speakers of stigmatized “dialects” of English and other languages
- Educate teachers, administrators, and parents about World Englishes, and variations in other languages, including Spanish, while showcasing the value of language differences, so that “dialects” are not viewed as inferior or substandard brands of a (“Standard”) language.
- Enhance the cultural competency of U.S.-based P-12 teachers, staff, and administrators through culturally inclusive professional development and through meaningful and sustained collaboration with families and communities, so that our schools are welcoming to students and families from diverse backgrounds
- Foster dialogue between teachers, parents, administrators, and support staff
- Share the 10 Pillars of a Good Childhood
- Mentor children, youth, students, and other leaders to collectively impact legislation around language and early education (e.g., Anita helped to ensure that Maryland passed the Seal of Biliteracy Act)
- Serve her local community and engender social justice by giving a voice to those who have been silenced
- Generate interest in the creation of a multistate organization in the northeastern region of the U.S. dedicated to advocating for bilingualized (English language) instruction in the early years.