Latino Family Literacy Project

Latino Family Literacy Project Takes Off at Creekside
Posted on 12/03/2019
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Latino Family Literacy Project pictures couple reading and an open bilingual bookAs the saying goes, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” Such was the inspiration behind a new family literacy program designed specifically for Spanish-speaking families at Creekside Early Childhood School this year.

“Knowing how important the home connection is to reading development, I was looking for something to help support my English Learner families with reading to their children at home,” said Creekside Principal Linda Pavlinac, noting how much more difficult that can be in households where the dominant language is not English. 

What she landed on was the Latino Family Literacy Project, a national research-based program that facilitates side-by-side reading in bilingual households. It was funded at Creekside this year mostly through federal funds designated for parent engagement among English Learners. 

Every Wednesday night since early October, Creekside parents and their children have been gathering in the school’s media center to read together. The are joined by an interpreter, Cesar Vanegas, who also serves as an instructional aide at Lakota West High School, as well as his co-leader for the new program, Creekside ESL teacher Sara Kennedy

The duo presents a different book every week for 10 straight weeks, providing the group with literature that is both bilingual and culturally relevant. Parents read the book aloud together - sometimes in English and other times in Spanish - learning many of the same strategies their children are being taught at school as developing readers.

“It’s almost like a little community that’s building. My favorite part is seeing how they encourage one another,” said Vanegas, who appreciates the program’s dual purpose to encourage parents to explore the English language and empower them to do the same alongside their children who are learning, too. 

Creekside parent Imelda Morales Perez shared that while she values the importance of reading with her child, she was held back by her limited knowledge of English. She has become more comfortable with reading in English, so much so that she now reads almost every night with her child. 

Rumalda Esteban attended the program for the first time in mid-November. Two of her Creekside children spent the evening with several of their other classmates reading and playing games with several bilingual high school student volunteers. She shared how happy she was to have the opportunity to play a role in her children’s education, something she said she’s never come across in the nearly 15 years she’s had kids in American schools. 

Kennedy stressed that the program is designed to help students continue on a bilingual track. “It’s important that students aren’t losing their Spanish as they’re learning English,” Kennedy shared with the group of parents who attended the Nov. 20 session. 

While the Creekside program will continue into next year, Vanegas and Kennedy are also gearing up for round two at Heritage Early Childhood School. The focus remains on Lakota’s youngest learners, who are developing their literacy skills. Noting challenges like transportation, this time they have plans to take the program off-site to a local community where a significant number of the school’s Spanish-speaking families live. They are also planning to prepend the formal program with a series of meetings designed solely to help build relationships among participating families. 

“Solid relationships are the first step in building a connection point between our parents and school. That’s where you start to see an even bigger impact in the classroom,” said Leah Aguilar, who serves as the parent engagement and community outreach coordinator for Lakota’s Outreach Diversity and Inclusion (LODI) department.

Depending on the success and interest of the pilot programs at both Creekside and Heritage, the district will consider expanding it to the remaining four early childhood schools in upcoming years.