Carrboro Commons

Starting Spanish early at Carrboro Elementary School

Posted on February 3rd, 2011 in Books,Carrboro children,En Español,Latino Issues,School news by jock

By Trevor Kapp
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

Editor’s Note: In an earlier version of this story, Special Education Teacher Holly Duncan and Reading Teacher Maria Arbiol (pictured below) were not correctly identified in the captions. The Commons apologizes and regrets the error.

Lupita Cortes speaks fluent Spanish with a nearly perfect accent, which is particularly audible when she pronounces words like “correr,” “nosotros” and “hora.”

Cortes has, after all, grown up in a Spanish-only-speaking household with Mexican parents who have put great emphasis on accent and elocution.

“We correct her if she pronounces a word badly,” said Edith Cortes, Lupita’s mother.

Lupita Cortes (right) and her classmates play Spanish word games on their iPod touches as Special Education Teacher Holly Duncan instructs them. Staff photo by Trevor Kapp

But when the 5-year-old is asked to read the language and write basic sentences, she struggles at times.

Cortes is one of 48 kindergarteners—divided into two sections—enrolled in the dual language program at Carrboro Elementary School, which for nine years has been teaching students as young as preschoolers basic Spanish skills with the hope that they can become proficient in speaking and writing early in life.

“It’s important because around the world, the majority of people don’t just speak one language,” said Alexandra Romero, Cortes’ Spanish teacher, who is in her third year at the school. “The average person speaks more than two languages, so here we teach them two languages. The ones who know Spanish learn English, and the ones who know English learn Spanish.”

Cortes’ day begins with English instruction in the morning, which consists of basic reading and writing exercises designed to improve her comfort level with the language. At noon, she and her classmates break for lunch and then take about 20 minutes to practice a dance routine to be performed in front of parents in the coming weeks.

Around 1 p.m., they walk to Romero’s classroom to begin Spanish lessons for the afternoon.

“We do everything,” Romero said. “We dance, we read books. They’re looking at listening exercises and letter exercises, some words that are used frequently, and we practice writing them.”

Romero added that the class has also done a geography and culture section, in which it looked at several Spanish-speaking countries and their customs and daily routines.

On this particular day, though, the students were divided into four groups and practiced various activities ranging from letter exercises with blocks to playing games on iPod touches.

“Everything we do is fun,” Cortes said. “I’m learning how to write. I know how to speak, but I don’t know how to write.”

Reading Teacher Maria Arbiol works with students in Alexandra Romero’s kindergarten class on their Spanish pronunciation. Staff photo by Trevor Kapp

“I like the computers,” another student said, referring to the iPod touches. “I’m with my friends, and I like doing the exercises.”

The class relies heavily on teaching assistants and volunteers—particularly UNC-Chapel Hill Spanish students involved in service learning—to assist the kindergarteners with the various exercises.

“The kids are much better at Spanish than I am,” joked Cassandra McCandless, a Chapel Hill native and UNC-CH freshman who recently began volunteer in Romero’s class.

“They’re already practically fluent in both languages.”

With up to four instructors in the classroom at a particular time, students are able to take full advantage of the available resources and hone a variety of linguistic skills at the different stations.

But the success of Carrboro Elementary’s dual language program has not come without some adversity.

“We have difficulty finding material that’s in Spanish,” Romero said. “It’s a little complicated in terms of money and because (the material) doesn’t exist. There’re a lot of activities and materials in English, but not in Spanish.”

In addition, the program has become so popular that the school has had to institute a lottery at the beginning of the year to determine which students will receive dual language instruction and which will be traditionally schooled.

“We’re overfilled,” says Mayra Menjivar, who is in her fourth year as a teaching assistant at Carrboro Elementary. “If someone withdraws, the next day someone else enrolls.”

Because of the lack of space, Menjivar said, the school is going to decide in the coming weeks whether to make its entire curriculum dual language.

Menjivar said she believed some parents were opposed to the idea because of the heavy burden and rigorous workload a second language would put on their children. But she added that the benefits were far too widespread to ignore.

“Culture is evolving,” she said. “To succeed in the future, they’ll need it. In jobs, they want people who speak both, and if you can’t compete, you won’t go far.”

For a printer-friendly PDF version of this story, click here.

Internationalist Books stays true to its radical roots

Posted on November 23rd, 2010 in A&E,Books,Carrboro Connections by jock

By Gloria Lloyd
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

Internationalist Books and Community Center, located on West Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, is an independent, nonprofit cooperative and alternative bookstore that has served as a hub for social activism and grassroots organizing for the past three decades.

Animal advocate David Cantor gives a talk on Nov. 19 at Internationalist Books, a nonprofit bookstore and community center in Chapel Hill. Cantor spoke about how environmental policies affect animals. (Staff photo by Gloria Lloyd)

Internationalist Books is often described as a “radical” bookstore, a description that its volunteers and customers embrace.

Outreach manager Laurin Gioglio said of the term, “We’re trying to own it a little bit.” Longtime volunteer Mike Cohen called the bookshop a “nest for radical action.”

The bookstore provides meeting space for a number of area nonprofits, including the Carrboro Community Garden and other environmental or social justice-related groups.  Inventory manager Lydia Powers said the Internationalist is a space where any group can “study, work, talk and promote their interests.”

Although the shop runs on a tight budget and is mostly run by dozens of volunteers who sign up to work in the store for at least three hours per week, the bookshop also has three part-time staffers who manage operations.

The store sells books that cover a variety of topics, on nearly every day of the year but one. On Friday, Nov. 26, the Internationalist will not be selling books but is instead promoting its 12th annual Buy Nothing Day, a local celebration of an international movement designed to protest consumerism.

On its website, the Internationalist describes Buy Nothing Day as a “response to the consumer-driven post-Thanksgiving shop-ocolypse known as Black Friday.”

The store urges its potential shoppers to instead come into the shop and make arts and crafts or play board games.  In past years, Carrburritos and other local restaurants have donated food for the store’s Buy Nothing Day participants.

Some of the most dedicated Internationalist volunteers have worked shifts at the shop since it opened in 1981. In February, the shop will celebrate 30 years as a community meeting space and resource.

In the 1980s, the Internationalist served as a hub for anti-apartheid organizing at UNC-Chapel Hill. More recent activist groups have opposed the Iraq and Persian Gulf Wars.

The store’s founder, Bob Sheldon, was murdered while closing the shop in February 1991, a crime that remains unsolved. Sonic Youth wrote a song about the incident called “Chapel Hill,” and the Indigo Girls referred to Sheldon’s murder in the song “Jonas and Ezekiel.”

In the years after Sheldon’s death, the Internationalist moved from West Rosemary Street to its present location on Franklin Street, which increased street traffic and prominence.

Gioglio said that in addition to the usual contingent of Chapel Hill and Carrboro activists, “A lot of people coming between Chapel Hill and Carrboro stop by because it’s on the way.”

The store also reorganized as a cooperative, with a sliding scale fee to become a member and receive store discounts and voting power on the Board of Directors.

Politically, the Internationalist is often described as having a leftist bent.  “We may be towards the left of the spectrum, but we’re an umbrella of a collective,” said Gioglio. “Some volunteers are interested in prison rights or abolition, some are interested in anarchy, some are interested in political and philosophical theories, some are interested in animal rights.”

Powers said that Internationalist Books has functioned as a living room and meeting space for an assortment of groups throughout the community who have not been welcomed by other nonprofits, including a homeless group that wrote a letter of thanks to the bookstore for providing a meeting space.

A chair outside of Internationalist Books gives shoppers a taste of what types of books will be on the shelves inside. (Staff photo by Gloria Lloyd)

The Internationalist regularly holds author appearances and film screenings, including an upcoming Dec. 16 screening featuring a documentary, “River of Waste,” about the environmental damage caused by hog lagoons.

Other events include appearances by touring activists, such as an event held Friday, Nov. 19 in which David Cantor of Responsible Policies for Animals, Inc. spoke on land use policy and the human disconnect from animals as part of RPA’s “This Land Is Their Land” campaign to move beyond factory farming and promote a different way of looking at animals and the Earth.

“Humans have ceased being citizens and have become consumers, TV watchers, spectators,” Cantor said in his talk. “Very few people have any idea what an ecosystem is.”

The shelves of the bookstore are filled with books, magazines and pamphlets on topics such as feminism and veganism.   A lending library is named in honor of Lisa Garmon, a longtime local activist and 20-year volunteer at the Internationalist.

Along with printed literature and information, the store now has computers that people can use. The Internationalist hosts music events as well as book readings and monthly discussions on various topics.

The Internationalist is a supporter of a number of long-term local projects, including the monthly Really Really Free Market held at the Carrboro Town Commons, as well as newer events such as the Carrboro Anarchist Bookfair.

Many local initiatives, such as the Carrboro Community Garden and Croatan Earth First!, hold their meetings at the Internationalist.

The cooperative also hosts the Chapel Hill stops of numerous traveling exhibits and groups in the summer, including Think Outside the Bomb and the Beehive Design Collective, a traveling mural show that seeks to educate and mobilize consumers against mountaintop coal removal.

Cohen said that the Internationalist is important because “the Chapel Hill activist community shouldn’t be dependent on the university for resources.”

With the stability that the Internationalist can offer of a permanent storefront dedicated to promoting activism, dedication to local causes doesn’t always have to end with graduation in Chapel Hill. Cohen said the community cooperative bookshop can “provide a level of continuity that student groups can’t maintain.”

As a nonprofit organization, Internationalist Books accepts donations, including book donations that are either sold in the store or sent to political prisoners as part of the Prison Books Collective.  The collective mails about 12,000 books each year to prisoners throughout the South for the program.

As part of the Prison Books Collective, the bookstore also hosts a monthly birthday card writing night for prisoners. “We know about their struggle,” Gioglio said. “Prisoners need love, too.”

Gioglio said that if the Internationalist received more in donations, the bookshop would be able to stock and sell more new books on its shelves rather than used. The store managers would also like to have enough funds to hold a speaker series that could bring more well-known speakers to the store.

Master bookbinder brings craft from Italy

Posted on March 25th, 2010 in A&E,Antiques,Books,Features by jock

By Alyssa Griffith
Carrboro Commons Editor

Master bookbinder Susan Soleil lives life according to her own philosophies. Soleil believes every choice we make is either a branch or a twig on the tree of life, and we are given these choices and opportunities to water, maintain and grow in order to strengthen our lives.

Master bookbinder Susan Soleil binds and restores books in Carrboro. The craftsman moved to the town after falling in love with the creative feel of the community. (Photo courtesy of Susan Soleil)

“Life is a long series of ‘what ifs,’ and we make thousands of choices every day that lead us in the direction we’re supposed to go,” Soleil said. “I don’t think you really even know what your biggest decisions are until after you’ve already made them.”

Soleil is a nationally respected book restorer who moved her hand bookbinding business from Rochester, N.Y., to Carrboro in the summer of 2007. Soleil has moved around a lot, but she said her lifestyle choices and philosophies convinced her to move to Carrboro, a place she thought she could call home. Soleil was also fascinated with the community’s relentless devotion to creativity and the arts.

“But Carrboro isn’t just about being creative,” Soleil said. “The people in this community want to have a positive impact on nature and on the other people around them. Someone who makes a mortgage payment, cleans up a landscape or takes care of a child should be celebrated too.”

Carrboro is a far distance from Soleil’s first bookbinding apprenticeship in Florence, Italy, in the 1970s. It was in Italy, under the guidance of a world-renowned master bookbinder, that she fell in love with her future trade.

To get by financially at the time, Soleil taught speech therapy in fluent Italian at the medical school of the University of Florence.

“Teaching provided me with a living while learning something new,” Soleil said.

Book Bindery opens in Carrboro

Posted on April 1st, 2009 in Books,Growth and development by jock

By Allison Miller
Carrboro Commons Co-Editor

While living in Florence, Italy, in the 1970s, Susan Soleil decided she wanted to learn a European craft and apprenticed with a bookbinder.

miller_books1final.jpg Susan Soleil demonstrates how a book press, one of the machines in her Carrboro book bindery, works. The book goes into the press while it dries and the pressure from the machine creates the ridge next to the spine.
Staff photo by Allison Miller

In September 2008 she brought her hand-binding skills to Carrboro when she opened The Soleil Book Bindery at 304 Weaver St. In her second-floor studio, Soleil repairs books, does custom binding and creates journals and albums.

“You can’t fake true craftsmanship and quality,” she said. “When you want a book to have…quality craftsmanship and quality materials, you come here.”

Soleil moved to Carrboro about a year ago after wanting a change from the cold climate of Rochester, N.Y., home to her and her bindery for 32 years.

In her studio sit big metal machines — for cutting, stamping and pressing — and several tables. Rolls of dark leather are mounted on the wall with rolls of cloth propped up on the wall beneath them. On a high shelf sit mementos from her life: urns containing ashes from her cats, 1950s cowboy toys from her childhood and souvenirs from Key West where she has close friends.