Celia Colores is like many Spanish-speaking parents who used to think her language skills prevented her from helping her children improve their reading skills.
But after enrolling in the Latino Family Literacy Project at Eric White Elementary School, she’s realizing the reading habits she reinforces at home will help her children improve no matter what language they read in.
“Since our children are learning English, they’d say they couldn’t read in Spanish. But their teachers let them know it okay to read in Spanish,” Colores said through translator Eric White Principal Sandra Aguilera.
“If the children see their parents reading, they’ll want to read even more. A side benefit is it brings the family closer together,” Aguilera said.
The weekly sessions are part of a new Latino Family Literacy Project that Paula Schiefer said is geared towards developing reading skills.
“The idea, the goal is to establish reading routines in the home.”
On Dec. 2, Gursimrat Muhar, a sixth-grade teacher at Eric White filled in for Sandra Klomp, a reading intervention/technology teacher. Klomp and Schiefer trained last spring and while there have been parent workshops in the past, this is the first year for the Latino Family Literacy Project.
Colores was one of eight parents sitting around pushed-together tables taking turns reading the Spanish sections of bilingual children’s books.
In previous sessions, they’d read other children’s books and created a paper flower collage where each petal listed a positive quality in their children, created a family tree page and will culminate the projects into a family album.
During that night’s session, instructor Paula Schiefer modeled guiding questions as parents took turns reading “The Shark that Taught Me English,” by Michelle Markel. Schiefer asked about the author, the pictures and story plot so that parents can emulate that pattern at home with their children that week.
Schiefer says just the act of sitting down with a book, talking about the pictures and making time for their children will emphasize the importance of reading.
“We’re practicing a book walk here and they’re also making new friendships and connections,” she said.
As the group shared their own and their children’s reading and school experiences, they also shared tips on how to merge their two cultures in the school setting.
The parents say the sessions are giving them new ideas to entice their children into reading more often at home – although it can still be a challenge.
“It helps us to get closer to our kids and that reading is something special,” said Noemi Sanchez.
The bilingual books are also helping some parents improve their own and their children’s Spanish and English language skills.
“I like to teach them Spanish when we read so they won’t forget,” said parent Domitila Pacheco through a translator.
Parent Sofia Gonzalez agrees.
“It’s very important to take advantage of what the school is giving us. I like that the bilingual books are helping my kids learn Spanish and helping the parents learn English.”