Reading “Friends from the Other Side” with 2nd Graders

By: Mari Contreras

I am a 2nd grade teacher in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and it was a pleasure being able to read “Friends from the Other Side / Amigos del Otro Lado” by Gloria Anzaldua to my students.  The reaction of my students was the same as mine when I read the story.  Many of my students were able to relate to the Prietita and Joaquin the two main characters of the story.  With every page that I turned my students made a connection to the text, but especially to the illustrations.  This story was about a brave young Mexican American girl who becomes good friends with a boy who crosses the Rio Grande River to Texas to live a better life with his mother.  My student’s eyes wear glued to the pages and anxious for each next page.  With each turn of the page they got more interested with the climax of Joaquin confronting the neighborhood boys who were being mean to him to seeing the condition of how Joaquin lived.  Towards the middle until the end of the story is where all of the enjoyment of reading this story to my students happened.  The student’s got very excited to see and hear my change of voice when I said “La migra!” My class got very excited and waiting in anticipation to find out if Joaquin and his mother would get caught and be taken back to Mexico.  I needed to stop my reading and allow students to share their stories that they knew and some that who had experienced it.  Once the discussion was done I continued and many of the students shared the same feelings as I had when we reach the end of the story.  The end of the store reaches to where Prietita was ready to pick and learn how to choose the right herbs to heal her new friend’s hand that was bruised and cut from maybe his trip crossing the river or his hard work labor that he did.  These were questions that my students had during and at the end of the story:

  • What happened to his hands?
  • How is Prietita going to make the paste to heal Joaquin’s hands?
  • Did Prietita and Joaquin become best friends?
  • Did Joaquin have any more trouble with the neighborhood boys?

In the end, all of these questions were good ways of my students using their schema and creative minds to add on to the story or change the ending of the story to their likely, which they all did the next day of school.   They all come up with different endings that, I just had to allow them to read or discuss their drawings.  Over all, this is a great book to read to children of Mexican ethnicity and those who live close to the borderlands.

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