Books and Resources for Black History Month

By readingintheborderlands

Black History Month begins in a couple of days and soon teachers will pull out picture books with Black characters and or will teach a unit on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harriet Tubman. Which is…kind of depressing, actually, because in way too many of these classrooms February is the only time kids regularly see books with Black characters or learn about important Black historical figures. While a few lessons during the month of February is arguably better than nothing, children should be reading books with Black characters and exploring historical events involving Black people all year long.

Teaching Tolerance has a good list of things to think about as you plan Black History Month activities and lessons.

Other resources teachers might explore include:

Lessons and Teaching Ideas that Use Primary Resources

Lessons and Resources from the NEA

And, finally, a booklist. Children need to read books about the Civil Rights movement and about the historical struggles for justice and equality that Black people have engaged in, but children also need to read about regular families and normal kid experiences:

28 Black Picture Books That Aren’t About Boycotts, Buses or Basketball


Bilingual Author Francisco Alarcon

By readingintheborderlands

I woke to news of the death of Francisco Alarcón, a Chicano poet and author of several bilingual children’s books. I’ve used his bilingual poetry with children and students in children’s literature courses many times; there’s just nothing like pulling out a bilingual picture book and seeing a group of kids go from disengaged to wide-eyed and enthusiastic when they see and hear words in Spanish. I applaud Francisco Alarcón for showing our Spanish-speaking students that their language and lives are valued enough to put in a book. How sad that we won’t see anything else from this fantastic author.51vbhf5eT4L._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_

American Library Association Youth Media Awards

By Readingintheborderlands

Big congratulations to Matt de la Peña for winning the Newbery Medal for Last Stop on Market Street! This book also won a Caldecott Honor award.

And of note for Rio Grande Valley readers: The Smoking Mirror by David Bowles won a Pura Belpre Author Honor award. David Bowles is from the Rio Grande Valley and has written a number of books that focus on life in the borderlands.

The entire list of awards can be found here.

Immigrant Students and Literacy

By Marco

This semester is RLIT 6345 Transnational and Immigrant Literacies, students were asked to complete a blog post as part of a professional book project.

campano bookGerald Campano’s book on Immigrant Students and Literacy is an excellent resource to inspire teachers that teach immigrant students in their classroom. There are many lessons that we can learn from this selection. From the importance of teaching with heart and compassion, to never giving up on our students were a few of the themes of the selection. I was amazed on how effectively Campano was able to work with his students through the skill of writing. He brought out their inner voice in the form of stories that the children had been waiting to tell.

The selection follows Campano, on his first year teaching, to a very poor school district in Houston, Texas.  It was a very trying time for Campano. He faced the challenge of working with low performing students who needed a lot of additional help. A first year teacher’s nightmare was probably what the author was feeling at this moment in time. However, as teachers, one of our strengths is perseverance and Campano did not give up. He made the best out of a bad situation and even gained the respect of his students.

Nevertheless, in order for Campano to become a more effective and empathetic educator, he felt that he had to gain a better understanding of his own identity. As a Filipino, Campano had never acquired a true appreciation for his own self-identity and he felt that this affected his teaching career.  He was not able to embrace and appreciate his own culture. Although, through the process of educating his students and seeing the injustices that these children experienced, Campano accomplished his goal. Finally, he was able to foster an appreciation for his own identity.

As the story progressed, Campano moved from Houston, Texas to California. In this new phase of his life, he took a position as a fifth grade classroom teacher.  He was placed in a classroom of students that needed a lot of help. The students that he was given were children that been classified as hopeless and rejects. They were also considered lazy and incapable of learning any new material. This infuriated me because as a teacher our job is to never give up on our students. As educators, we want education to be important to all children despite their upbringing. Campano realized the importance of reaching out to his students.  He reached out to his students by having them share what was important in their life, through stories that needed to be heard. Through the use of writing Campano was able to get their voices heard. Poverty, discrimination, gang violence, and death were just a few of the common factors that these children shared through their writing.

This is a great inspirational book, which can be utilized during the staff development trainings at the beginning of the year. It will serve as a reminder that all children can learn and that we are the key that will ensure their success. This selection serves as a great inspiration to all educators.

Prejudiced Pedagogical Practices

By Alisa, Claudia and Gabriela

This semester in RLIT 6345 Transnational and Immigrant Literacies, students were asked to write a blog post as part of a professional book project.

As children, we hope to receive an education that will equip us with the knowledge needed to understand the world around us and prepare us for the world ahead. As parents, we hope our children receive an education that develops their understanding of the past, present, and future. As educators we rely on the educational programs to educate us on the professional, ethical, and developmental requirements that will enable us, not only to become certified teachers, but also to become effective teachers licensed by the state to teach.


Every child that walks into our classrooms is part of the general public we are to educate. Are our students all the same? Those who walk through our classroom doors possess funds of knowledge about their cultural background. Do our teaching practices promote or hinder the knowledge and experience our children bring into the classroom? Do we promote personal growth, acceptance, value, and understanding? Are our teaching practices targeting the needs of our students? Is the curriculum we teach true to the best of our knowledge? These are some of questions that developed while we read Lourdes Diaz Soto & Haroon Kharem’s book Teaching Bilingual/Bicultural Children. We reflected on our own educational experiences as children, as parents, our assumptions as individuals, our knowledge attained though our experiences as students on the K-12 system, undergraduate students and graduate students.

Although the three of us had very different upbringings, we each share some similarities while in grade school. The three of us writing this agree that we were negatively affected by the system’s beliefs and practices. The three of us were taught by teachers who did not allow us to speak our first language (Spanish). We were not allowed to speak Spanish, we were scorned for explaining or questioning in our home language. We were only seeking clarification. Our teachers had the mentality of sink or swim. Even now as adults whom have already obtained our teaching certifications, we were not educated on the importance of valuing the home language. We noticed that through our collaboration and experiences along with the readings incorporated in our master’s program in literacy instruction, we have realized we were misinformed. We neglected to value our own language and that of the students we teach.

Sink or Swim

From grade school to undergraduate school we conformed and assimilated to the dominate groups beliefs. We focused on getting the student to the next proficiency level. The students needed to be ready to pass the state assessment. We thought that code-switching was frowned upon. We promoted English in a way that devalued their first language. How we were taught as children, and our personal experiences has shaped us consciously and unconsciously in to the teachers we were.

World Wise

We reflected having been taught from a whitewashed perspectives. We were forced by, as well enforced, the educational system of assimilation in order to be successful. We brought those prejudiced pedagogical practices into the classroom. We felt that it was more important to assimilate. False information has been passed from the dominant culture, to the submissive minority cultures masquerading as truths. We have taken for granted that what we were taught in school was correct and true to the fullest extent. We by default were teachers teaching the way we were taught. It is not because we do not value our history, culture, or language. It is because we were not educated in ways that allowed us to place value in our history, culture, and language. If we had not been exposed to the readings about teaching bilingual bicultural children, we would not have reflected on the invalidation of our own culture.

Sharing Cultures

We are educators certified in bilingual education by the state of Texas. Yet, we reflected having felt silenced even while speaking. We reflected our prejudiced pedagogical practices. We as teachers needed to become researches of our own history, culture, and language; and that of the students that we teach. We will encounter more diversity within our classroom in the years to come. We must become educated in bilingual/bicultural practices to better understand customs and mannerisms. What we assume is defiance and lack of effort may be a sign of respect while learning.

Del Otro Lado by Susan Meyers

By Sandra Richwood and Yazmin Gonzalez

This semester in RLIT 6345 students worked in groups to read and discuss a professional book related to transnational or immigrant literacies. As part of their project, they wrote a post for this blog.

Del Otro Lado book coverMexico has never been known for feminism, or for women rights, but instead for something they so proudly believe in, “machismo” which entails the men have to provide for the family while the women stay at home, have kids and quit education all together. However women in Villachuato, Mexico do have access to education, starting with ‘primaria’ or primary, which the U.S. considers elementary (grades 1-6) and ‘secundaria’, which Mexico considers as middle school is up to 9th grade (grades 7-9) problem is, some women do not attend at all because they see no point to educating themselves, some although, attend to their education in Villachauto, but it’s never easy for many reasons: financial issues, mores of the community, family beliefs, and school climate.  It’s complex; Mexico’s history and curriculum have played a role.  Meyers interviewed six women on how literacy or formal literacy education played a role in their lives (Meyers, S, 2014).


Men and women have never been considered equal, especially in Mexico a place where the men take pride on being male, and the females have no other choice but to not believe in their worth. This demeanor is no stranger when it comes to education in general.  A man is inevitably going to work outside the home or have to migrate for work to the U.S. and the women are expected stay in the home alone and continue with their work (taking care of the children, cooking, washing, cleaning) and that’s only if they are married because if not their work will continue either to help their mother still being a “señorita” or being the talk to the town for being 18 and not married yet.

Esperanza was 100 years old, and lived through the Mexican Revolution that ended 1920.  Even though she never learned to read and write she had male neighbors do this for her, since being born a male got you the automatic right to attend school.  Through letters she gained a way to “choose” her suitors and later a husband, and now 30 years later, not much had changed (95).

Patricia’s mom suffers from depression, and Patricia has to leave school to help out at home.  She is has no choice in whom she marries, unlike men, who get to pick who they want, when they want.  However when Patricia learns, years later, that her grandparents had migrated to the U.S. and their children got an education, she saves up money and sends one of her youngest daughter to school for a better life.  She was unable to use the power of literacy but was able to this for least one of her daughters-even when her husband “shamed” his daughter because she was educated (96).

Elvira, a woman around Patricia’s age, mentions rumors about her grandfather murdering her grandmother, and that he left the family for another.  Her mom was orphaned, neglected and resented Elvira.  Elvira never had a chance for an education because her mother made it too difficult by not purchasing school supplies or a required uniform because she was the youngest, and in Mexico the youngest is expected to stay home and care for their parents. Elvira later marries and moves to the U.S. for economic reasons, yet returned to her hometown “Villachuato”, unlike must women there, Elvira chose to empower her children-sons and daughter (99-101) she did want her children to have the opportunity of an education, like Cynthia, who went to school and studied more for cosmetology.

These are real life testimonies from real women living in a small town in Michoacán Mexico, where life expectancy is 100. Literacy although offered, is mostly taken for granted, for lack of opportunities, lack of respect but mostly for lack of knowledge, like previously mentioned, not much has changed in over 30 years and at this rate it doesn’t seem like it’s going to.

Perspective on Biliteracy

by Cristina Canales, Patricia Robles, Norma Ramirez, Eliud Salinas

This semester in RLIT 6345 students worked in groups to read and discuss a professional book related to transnational or immigrant literacies. As part of their project, they wrote a post for this blog.

One question the book presents is as follows:  How do two languages in the primary yearsEarly Biliteracy Development impact a child’s language and literacy development in both languages?   There has always been a misconception that children will get confused when it comes to learning how to read and write in two languages. Yet through limited research, it has been discovered that by the age of three, children can differentiate between different languages (pg. 14).There is an overabundance of academic research on the literacy development of monolinguals. The same cannot be said for children learning a second language in academic settings. The book Early Biliteracy Development-Exploring Young Learners’ Use of Their Linguistic Resources “shares the perspective of in-service teachers, literacy educators, graduate students, and researches whose work involves bilingual learners, original research examining issues related to early biliteracy development across different languages” (pg.1 ).

What greatly contributes to the success of a child’s development as an “emergent bilingual” as the book describes, is in the way the languages are developed, encouraged and supported at home. “Parents/caregivers of bilingual preschoolers play an important role in shaping their literacy and language development” (pg. 29).  Since family plays a huge role in the development of two languages, their academic learning must have the same learning opportunities and acceptance.  In order for the child to not only flourish academically, allowing them to use their “resources” to build onto their knowledge and make connection is what makes them successful.  The term “resources” in the book is referred to as, what the child brings from home in both language and culture, which that supports and impacts the English learning process (pg. 12).

A second question that the book asks is the following: Does exposure to language and literacy practices in two languages interfere with the learning process?  Just like the question above, people have believed that language should be the same as the language of instruction.  Studies have actually revealed that literacy practices in two languages actually increase cognitive benefits and metalinguistic awareness of bilingual students (pg. 17).  As students are trying to make sense of the material, the act of using both of their languages to construct meaning empowers their language repertoire; they are able to use and manipulate information in one language and apply it to the other language while meaning is unaffected by the language switch. Also, as students are presented with two different writing systems, the ability to distinguish between the two helps in developing literacy skills. Talking about similarities and differences between two languages enhances second language acquisition (pg. 50). Learning a second language can also help facilitate the first language.

To conclude, as educators we want students to make connections to what they already know and use it to build onto new knowledge. The diversity of our students nurtures multiple paths to biliteracy and it is important to recognize the bidirectional process of how language skills are acquired. It is also crucial that we begin to view bilingual students as biliterate and not two monolinguals in one, as to encourage the use of two languages.

The House that Reading Built

Posted by Readingintheborderlands

Donalyn Miller wrote an excellent post about the power of literacy and access to books:

Reversing the lack of accurate, inclusive, affirming portrayals of diversity in children’s literature is long overdue, but writing and publishing more diverse authors and stories only takes us so far if children never see these books. As a global community, we cannot continue to accept or perpetuate inequities limiting children’s open access to books.

McAllen Book Festival

By readingintheborderlands

The McAllen Book Festival returns this Saturday, November 7 from 10:00-5:00! Last year’s event was fantastic and I’m really excited about this year. The official announcement:

The McAllen Book Festival will be held this Saturday, November 7, from 10 AM to 5 PM at McAllen Public Library. (It is the main branch at Nolana and 23rd Streets.) This free festival features acclaimed authors for children and young adults, speaking at the top of each hour, as well as live music, youth activities, vendors, and food trucks all day. 

The full schedule is available online.

I’ll be there! Come join me!

Back from hiatus…..

By readingintheborderlands

It’s been a while! This blog went on hiatus when work got overwhelming. The consolidation of my university with another has been….interesting, to say the least. Positive, yes! But lots and lots and lots of work. We are now three whole months into the new institution and it’s time to get back to other parts of my life.

The blog has a new look, but I’ll probably be playing around with it for a bit trying out different colors and graphics.