The Mosaic Community – young immigrants’ lives in tiles

BY: CIERRA MCDONALD

“This book takes people on a journey through the immigrant experiences,” said Rachna Rikhye, author of The Mosaic Community, “I wanted to make books for the population that does not see themselves in books. I am an immigrant myself from India.”

Students don’t see themselves

Mrs. Rikhye’s book, The Mosaic Community depicts six individual stories from her ESOL students at Piney Branch Elementary who give their narration as immigrants coming into a new country, a new school, and a new community.

“My students come from all over the world and when they get here they feel a little lost and then they don’t see themselves in any of the books that they read,” said Mrs. Rikhye.

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Rachna Rikhye, author of The Mosaic Community.

“If they do come across something like that they get so excited and interested and they want to read it, talk about it, write about it, and do all kinds of things.”

“I found out that there weren’t enough material. There weren’t enough that was tailor made. So then I said why don’t I do the fun part of it and write the material that would go along with the curriculum,” Mrs. Rikhye said.

Diversity

She created Diversity International, a non-profit publishing company, and used the book sales to raise funds for after-school programs.

She decided to write a children’s book specifically for her students that would introduce diverse characters from different cultures in an artistic and narrative way.

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“It’s important for my students because when immigrant children come into a new environment where other children are speaking other languages and dressing differently they tend to want to hide their differences and try to be like everyone else,” said Mrs. Rikhye, “I wanted my students to understand that it is normal to be different and to embrace them not fear them.”

She hoped this book, The Mosaic Community, would help them gain confidence in themselves and work well with others.

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“The children tell their individual stories and individual dreams in the book. One girl dreamed that everyone would understand who she is and where she came from. The mosaic has pieces that tell the story from the book. Another girl had children dancing in her mosaic titles that were represented in her story. One boy made a drawing of how it would be for all the cultures to combine. He picked up motifs from all the different cultures and had made them as one,” said Mrs. Rikhye.

She wanted her students to see how everything they have experienced and everything they own is a source of wealth, pride, and inspiration.

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“The kids brought in cultural artifacts from home and they talked about them.

They were very proud of all the things that they brought and they were really special to them. It was great for them to hear each other story,” said Mrs. Rikhye

Believe in their dreams

“The main thing that I wanted to accomplish was for the students to be proud of themselves and believe in their dreams.”

The mosaic tile that the children created hangs high above the inside door in the community center.

Those children have left, but their artwork remain intact.

“It was great to be apart of the community and it showed my side of my story and where I’m from,” said former student Kaleb Tola.

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Piney Branch Elementary School, Takoma Park, MD.