Students at Hazel M. Kellington School are learning the benefits of diversity simply through reading with a friend. Increased immigration to the Neepawa area in recent years – in large part due to HyLife employment – has increased cultural diversity at Neepawa's elementary school and added a need for growth in HMK's English as an Additional Language (EAL) program. The program aims to aid all students as they learn the English language, working with students of varying ability and ages. Results from the program have been extremely beneficial to both newcomers as well as their teachers and classmates. As part of the EAL teachings, program leaders have added a dual language book section to HMK's library to promote understanding about the diversity at the school right now. The dual language books tell a story in both English and a foreign language, with both languages adjacent to one another for comparison. Students whose first language is not English can read in their language and compare that with the English words to help their understanding of the language. But, EAL teachers are finding, the books are also serving a different purpose. Some classes have begun encouraging students whose first language is English and newcomers to partner as reading buddies; the newcomer reads the story in their language while the other reads in English. EAL's Moira Woods points out the new initiative is really proving to be a benefit to students. “Instead of the students looking at their classmates and just thinking they are speaking a 'funny language', the students are saying, 'Wow, they can read another language',” Woods explains of the benefits. “The students find it cool to hear a story they like in another language, and it's one more way students are learning to be accepting.” With students and families moving to Canada from various different locations in recent years, EAL also has a variety of languages represented through the books. Arabic (used in Egypt) Tagalog (the Philippines), Ukranian, Chinese, Russian and French books are all being utilized. More recently, during I Love to Read Month, teachers from the EAL program recorded students reading the books together in both languages, while other students would watch them later on. “It's just been a really neat thing for the kids to try doing,” Woods concluded. "The students watched the videos in their classrooms and teachers reported they were very attentive and impressed with how our new students could read so fluently in their first language." To listen to one of the recordings from I Love to Read Month visit neepawapress.com, go to this story, and click on the audio link.