Literacy Is Inescapable

By Miguel Galvan

This post is written by a student in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.

In my READ 4351 class, I was assigned to write a 10 page report on adolescent literacy. I used my girlfriend’s teenage brother as the subject of my writing and with his cooperation and some in depth research, I learned a lot about adolescent literacy.  I came up with the thematic idea that Literacy is Inescapable and decided to write my blog on this.

Socially Inescapable:

After collecting and studying all of my data, I have found that teenage kids cannot escape literacy, and they wouldn’t want to if they could.  Danny, along with many other teenage kids, doesn’t even realize that he actually enjoys literacy.  In his interview, Daniel expressed that he doesn’t like to read much because he claims that it does not interest him. But Danny doesn’t even realize that he spends most of his time reading and writing.  Between all the text messages, emails, online chats, scripts and television subtitles, Danny spends almost all day reading things that he likes.  Adolescents cannot escape the fact that literacy is an important aspect of their lives.  In today’s times a teen must be able to read and write not only to keep up socially, but career-wise as well. 

Professionally Inescapable:

In order to even have a chance at competing for a career opportunity, literacy is a must.  Studies by the International Center and other groups have shown that reading requirements for the workplace are at a higher level than and different from the requirements for higher education. (What We Know about Adolescent Literacy, Dr. Willard R. Daggett, International Center for Leadership in Education, Dr. Ted S. Hasselbring, Vanderbilt University) This is why the national and state governments have recently spent so much to promote literacy for children starting at an early age.  One of the national steps taken to advocate literacy in schools is the LEARN (Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation) Act. This act will ensure that children up to grade twelve have the necessary literacy skills for success for school and beyond by providing support to state and local literacy programs in three steps.  The first step would be authorizing $2.35 billion for comprehensive literacy programs, including both existing and new state and local programs. LEARN also plans to enhance each state’s role in improving literacy instruction, with the creation of websites like in which the state focuses on literacy on the local level.  Finally LEARN will support the creation of local high-quality literacy programs in schools by providing professional development for instructional staff.  ( LEARN is important to help adolescents who may be struggling with literacy in order to give them equal access to effective reading instruction, because there is no way these kids will escape the fact that literacy is important in anything they do.

The Power of Choice

By Abel Lopez

This post was written by a student in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature.

What if students only read books that interested them?  What if students were given the power of choice when deciding what to read in class regardless of the subject matter?  Would there be total chaos in the classroom or does the power of choice give the struggling reader a chance to be heard? 

In the past few months, I have been conducting a qualitative single-subject case study exploring the impact of reading strategies on comprehension and have observed how the power of choice positively impacted a struggling reader’s self-esteem and reading confidence.  A once shy and quiet young boy took a risk and used the information absorbed from the text (that he chose to read) and created a small video outlining his newly gained knowledge.  He also, later in the study, requested that I check out more books for him to read at home.  The power of choosing authentic literature to read will empower the struggling reader to take charge of their reading careers!

Allowing students the opportunity to choose what type of literature to read will foster a classroom where literature is valued and discussed.  A classroom where everyone’s opinion matters and is heard.  A classroom where literature circles, literature journals, and literature letters fill the room with debates, discussions, and personal connections made by reading literature that deals with issues associated with them, the reader, the person!  Taking ownership of what literature to read can also motivate a struggling reader to create their very own literature blog and share what their interests are or what issues they are dealing with in the lives.

Click on the following like to view my research subject’s literature blog in progress:

 The power of choice allows students the opportunity to select literature that allows them to make connections with characters, issues, or subject matter affecting them. Through student responses, students use creative talents such as art, music, dance, writing, singing, or any other talent as a medium to share personal connections. 

 The power of choice allows for literature to foster inquiry in the reader, inquiry that can guide independent reading and research.  Inquiry fostered by literature may guide a student to seek the help of an expert or request a research trip to a coastal studies lab to interview a marine biologist after they’ve read literature stories dealing with sharks.  Literature guides independent reading, inquiry, and confidence in a reader. 

As you begin to plan your literature classroom this year, remember to ask yourself, “Who are my students and what do they want to read?”  It may just remind you of why you became a teacher.

Problems that may Restrain Literacy in Adolescence

By Erica Campos

This post is written by a student in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.

Imagine sitting in a classroom and having to listen to a teacher teach a lesson on the water cycle, the square root of something, or symbolism and all you can think about is the beating you took from your drunken parent the night before, or the fact that you have no light nor running water at home, or remembering those unforgettable words, “We are getting a divorce”.  These are all real factors that affect student learning in the classroom.  Many times educators want to blame everything on laziness, but getting to know the students may help alleviate that bias. Divorce, socioeconomic status, abuse & neglect are factors that may restrain adolescent literacy.   

It is essential that teachers get to know his/her students.  Getting to students may aid understanding and patients in the development of literacy in adolescence.  Spotting the Captain of the football team, the head-cheerleader, or the President of the National Honor Society is not that difficult; but how about the rest of the student body, the in between, the sometimes forgotten.  How do we begin to build new knowledge and skills for these students so that they cans gain experience?  Is it possible to get those students to participate in the classrooms?  A well- produced teaching efficacy will help deliver that.  The quick solution would be to introduce them to extracurricular activities (i.e.  Sports, drama, music, etc…).  However, some of these students need guidance & motivations that may help boost that desire.  It may not be easy, but it can be possible.

Educators need to mentally prepare themselves and be ready to teach these groups of students.  Thus, they may find positive ways to motivate their learning and participation.  Although sometimes it is hard to spot the students with unfortunate circumstances it is essential for all educators to take the time to get to know their students.  In addition, being empathetic towards your students may assist in figuring out what the root of the problem is when it comes to learning. Showing the students that they are important and that their learning is important may promote literacy.

Hadar Dubowsky Ma’ayan wrote an article called “Erika’s Stories: Literacy Solutions for a Failing Middle School Student” in which he displayed the tough life this young girl endured.  It is a perfect example of students who live hardship lives.  Erika’s literacy consisted of events and a life of a gang family.  She found school uninteresting until she began telling her stories.  Erika did not have all the new technologies readily available to her, but she knew how to communicate with others through email, and knew how to search the web for free music downloads.  Erika’s struggle in school came from her living arrangement and socioeconomic status.  Her motivation in school was minimal and had very little interest.  A student like her would probably be seen as a “trouble maker” and a helpless case.  Interestingly, the man conducting her case study soon learned that Erika simply had other interests that coincided with her experiences and background knowledge.  Erika is a bright young lady who needed to be guided in the right direction.  

Teachers should not ignore the signs that may guide them to what maybe restraining students learning.  With the right motivation, building adolescent literacy can be a success with the right attitudes.  Keeping a positive outlook that all students can and will learn will help in the success for all.  Factors such as divorce, socioeconomic status, abuse & neglect can all contribute to the lack of literacy for some adolescents.  Ericka was becoming a product of her society.   But finding out what her interests were, illustrated that she wasn’t that far behind from the rest.  Instead, her educators needed to find things that she could relate to.  Plus, getting to know Erika and her situation helped build empathy towards her situation.  It is highly important that a teacher develop a high teaching efficacy in order to make cases like Erika’s easier to detect and furthermore, find meaning in there learning.

Chapter Books in Kindergarten! Is It Possible?

By Andres Reyna

This post was written by a student in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature.

Is it possible to read chapter books to kindergartners?   How can kinder teachers read chapter books to their children, if we know that kindergarten children can only sit down for 15 to 20 minutes the most?  Well, my first year of teaching kindergarten at a precise early childhood center, I discovered how authentic children’s literature made my read alouds and shared reading more engaging and productive in my classroom.  I tried my best to engage the children in different types of texts and a verity of book genres.  As much as you prepare a read aloud or share reading, sometimes it doesn’t turns out the way you expect it to be.  This encouraged me to read literature that was relevant and interesting to my kindergartners.

One morning I tried something new in my classroom during my read aloud.  I begin to read Charlotte’s Web by E.B White to my kindergarteners without even thinking what an impact it was going cause in their lives.   I still remember when I introduced it and begin to read the first few lines in the first chapter.  “Can you show us the pictures?” was the first question I heard coming from a student sitting in the back row.  I had to stop and explain why there were no pictures in this book.  At that time, I was wondering if they would be interested in listening to the rest of the book.  I asked the children to visualize pictures in their mind as I read.  After I role modeled, the children begin to make pictures in their minds and asking all types of questions. I was amazed on how fast they got hooked on the book.  As the days went by, the children asked for more Charlotte’s Web.  Towards the end of the chapter book, I was reading a whole chapter to the children instead of a paragraph or two.  As we got to the last chapter of the book, the children came up with an idea. They decided to invite the principal to come and read the last chapter to the whole class. 

My first year of teaching kindergarten made me realize how authentic literature can inspire children’s love for reading.  With this chapter book I taught many strategies to my kindergartners, even though chapter books are written for older students.  Who ever thought I was going to be teaching elements of story structure in a very unique and enjoyable way with Charlottes’ Web.  Children learned to use strategies such, visualizing pictures in their minds and thinking aloud.  It was astonishing how the children’s vocabulary increased as I read more and more of Charlotte’s Web.  Through this experience I learned that authentic literature can make a difference on how children view their perspective of reading.  Furthermore, I learned that it is very important to bring a varity of texts and genres into kindergarten classrooms that interest them.

Merry Christmas!

By Readingintheborderlands

I drove past a popular tamale restaurant today, hoping to pick up some tamales for Christmas. Oops! I should have planned ahead–there was a line of at least 50 people stretching out the door. Since I hate lines, no tamales for me.

How about some children’s books instead?  Here are a few Christmas related books for borderlands kids:

Las Navidades: Popular Christmas Songs from Latin America  selected and illustrated by Lulu Delacre is a collection of traditional Christmas songs. Lyrics are in both the original Spanish and translated into English. Each page also contains factiods about Christmas in Latin American countries.


David Diaz provides gorgeous illustrations for the lyrics of the popular Christmas song in José Feliciano’s Feliz Navidad.




An American-born woman living in Japan shows her young son how Christmas is celebrated in Allen Say’s Tree of Cranes.




While it’s not exactly great literature, Texas Night Before Christmasby James Rice is a fun variant of  Twas the Night Before Christmas.




In the bilingual  Charro Claus and the Tejas Kid by Xavier Garza little Victor and his cousin Pancho help Santa Claus deliver gifts to children along the border.

Facebook: A New Form of Literacy for the Next Generation?

By Amanda

This post is written by a student in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.

Whether you have a Facebook account to keep in contact with friends and family, have a business or educational page, or even had one at one point in your life just to “check it out”, Facebook has become a trend that a person just cannot avoid.  This fad has even gone as far as proving the saying, “Everyone and their mother has one” to be true.  A social networking site, once meant solely for college students, now houses members ranging from kids as young as eleven years-old to adults sixty years and older.  There  is no argument necessary when stating that the majority of people who have a Facebook account spend an immense amount of time and energy on this site.  Students even go as far as posting status’ like “I hope I can stay off FB for just one day so I can study!”  A statement saying, yes I know I need to study for this extremely important exam but for some reason Facebook seems to be much more important. 

With such a large amount of time spent on this social networking site, one has to wonder what skills, if any, do we actually get out of using Facebook so much?  Now there is no argument that can be made about Facebook being a wonderful way of keeping in contact with friends, family, school assignments, and other events going on in our lives however, can one go as far as saying that solid literacy skills can be gained from using Facebook?  Survey says……….NOT! 

Facebook posts do not involve a high quantity of reading, nor quality, for the fact that posts are written in a more relaxed lingo compared with the academic language found in novels, textbooks, newspapers, etc. where the main purpose is to gain knowledgeable information.  You almost never see correct punctuation anywhere on Facebook and abbreviations like ‘LOL, FML, WTF, SMH’ are seen everywhere.  Although one can say reading is reading no matter what format it may be in, the language found on Facebook can be pretty detrimental to anyone’s literacy skills, especially for those who spend a large amount of time on Facebook.  A person may even get so used to using this informal language that all of a sudden when having a face to face conversation with someone, they may feel the urge to say ‘LOL’ instead of just laughing out loud!  Trust me, it happens!

Changing Forms of Literacy

By Priscilla D. Torres

This post is written by a student in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.

New literacies are made possible by digital technology developments which usually involve instant messaging, blogging, social networking, downloading, texting, video casting, e-mailing, and much more. Could this new technology improve or handicap the literacy of the upcoming generation today?

In an interview I conducted with a seventeen-year-old Edinburg high school senior, the female student discussed that when she doesn’t understand something in a textbook or doesn’t quite understand what the teacher is explaining, she’ll just pull out her IPod and search for the answer. This was interesting because she did not mention getting up and going over to pick up a dictionary or reference book. She used informational literacy to look up a particular problem at hand. These students in classrooms no longer have to wait till lunch or after school to go to the library to find an answer. They can just pull it right out of their pocket and search for it within a few seconds.

Adolescents today spend much more time in front of a computer than playing outside. Reading for school, for fun, and talking on the phone with friends are done less nowadays,  if not at all. Watching T.V, playing video games (including IPod), and participating in extracurricular activities are considered free time now. I asked the student how often she spends time in front of a computer. Her reply was that she spends over five hours surfing the internet and writing (writing to friend’s online, blogging, and text messaging). I remember back then when a computer was only used for business work and playing outside was much more of a priority than being inside. The generation today is completely different. Now you can’t even get these adolescents to get off the computer and have them help water the grass. Nowadays, a cell phone is needed wherever one goes. I feel that adolescents are much worse when it comes to this. For example, in school settings, teachers are constantly warning students to turn off all phones, especially during standardized testing. Yet, there’s always that one student who fails to listen and it goes off during the middle of an exam distracting everyone. Although this technology is important, it is also a major distraction.

During my observation with the seventeen year old adolescent, I noticed the absurd amount of time and energy she puts into text messaging her peers. Her main objective was to finish up a homework assignment for school; she continued to do so taking small breaks to look at her phone. This made me wonder if traditional literacy was declining and if adolescents in her generation would ever have trouble reading and writing due to this new technology evolving. The adolescent discussed how she doesn’t know cursive and how the school just taught them for a week and moved them into the computer lab to learn how to type. When I was in school a few years back, I remember when my peers and I would write letters to each other during passing periods as a form of communication. Although we would have to wait hours at a time to receive the next “letter,” technology today eliminates the “waiting time” and offers a quick response.

I was worried if text messaging short hand would replace traditional literacy and dumb down the new generation. So far, research has claimed that these adolescents are at an advantage and are able to read and write more starting at an earlier age. Lily Huang, a writer for World News stated in her article “The Death of English,” “that children who texted-and who wielded plenty of abbreviations–scored higher on reading and vocabulary tests. In fact, the more adept they were at abbreviating, the better they did in spelling and writing (Huang, 2008).” These results were astounding to me because I always thought texting abbreviations would influence the new generation skills in literacy.

The Famous AR program

By Ruby

This post is written by a student in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.

After doing an adolescent literature project for my Reading course in UTPA, I realized that not much has changed to incorporate literacy in elementary and secondary schools. Growing up, I faced a new challenge each six week cycle to read a certain amount of books in order to be tested on these and obtain points. These points would buy small rewards in the library such as pencils, candy, bookmarks, and maybe even more books. This program was called Accelerated Reader (AR). Accelerated Reader is actually software used by many schools to monitor the amount of books the students read.  

After doing several interviews to a specific adolescent attending an Edinburg middle school and observing a class in an elementary school, I noticed that schools have not tried to modernize the literacy students do in any way, nor have they tried to approach this issue with other more appealing methods. Books are by no means bad forms of literacy, but trying to promote reading by instead forcing students to read is not the best way to allow this literacy to flourish. This AR program is not voluntaristic. Students do not have a choice as to whether or not they want to participate in reading books. This type of method to check whether or not students read does not teach any content, but rather teaches reading for recall. A student can easily just read a low level book, get tested, and meet the goal set by the school.

The schools that still use this AR program should instead invest on other more successful ways to promote reading and not just books, but also periodicals, online articles, or even blogs. Modern times call for the use of technology and this, as far as I’ve seen through my observations, is not very great in public schools. I have heard that some schools have done away with textbooks in order to save money and are instead assigning ipads with the textbooks in them. This is a start, yet more has to be done to target those children and teens who are not interested in reading because they view their school material “boring.” Content textbooks are not the best choice of recreational reading that a student may do. If this doesn’t change, students will not learn to appreciate and cherish a good form of literacy in their adulthood. I do not know how well other districts or states are doing in involving literacy in their schools, but the Rio Grande Valley has a lot of progress to do.

Help! Beware of Bullying

By Aime Mendoza

This post is written by a student in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.

More and more today, we are seeing how bullying is affecting the way many adolescents are being treated in schools in all grade levels. Bullying is a form of taunting and belittling another person for a superficial feeling of empowerment that consists of emotional, physical, and verbal abuse. This type of problem can manifest itself to other issues such as drug use, alcohol abuse, violence and most importantly, suicide.

How many of us can say that they were bullied in school but actually told someone about it? For some adolescents, seeking any type of help can seem awkward and embarrassing for them and prefer to stay quiet and in the background. How many of us can admit to seeing someone being bullied and not do anything to stop it? It is an issue that most people tend to ignore for the fear of getting bullied themselves. There are also some adults that can admit that being bullied at school led them to a life of violence or attempting suicide, all due to the abuse they received by a bully. At times, we don’t see the signs of bullying, until it is too late. Enough is enough!

As a future educator, we must recognize that bullying happens in every shape or form and it is up to those who truly want the best for their students to stop this from happening.  Although, the topics about bullying and suicide are somewhat controversial, teachers and parents can learn to be more aware of the situation by providing interesting and relevant books for students to read for a classroom library or for personal use. Books about bullying can inspire teens to gain courage to speak out and stand up for themselves, as well as accepting the fact that they are not alone. These types of books can establish a better understanding for teachers to seek those students in need as well as grasping the interest of students who are the aggressors but are willing to change their ways. Here are some books about bullying and suicide that can help an adolescent cope with those critical issues that torment them.

By the time you read this, I’ll be dead By Julie Anne Peters

This book is about a young girl name Daelyn who has a history of being bullied at school and plans to attempt suicide, once again. Through the help of a website, she writes a blog about herself with details of the horrific events from her past that led her to commit suicide. What is interesting about this book (at the end of the book is that it includes questions and facts about bullying) for the reader to think about long after they finish reading.

My time as Caz Hazard By Tanya Lloyd Kyi. This book is about a young girl named Caz who torments a girl named Dodie. Caz, being young, is influenced by her new friend Amanda to do awful things to Dodie. When they discover that Dodie kills herself, Caz realizes that she must change her ways. What intrigued me about this book is how the narrator is the bully herself and how accurate the issues are to the lives of many adolescents.

Many schools districts, here in the valley, are now more aware of the situation and are taking extra measures to ensure the livelihood of those in need. Here is a video link about one schools effort to protect the victims of bullying and how they are creating a safer environment for students.

La Joya ISD Steps Up Anti-Bullying Efforts:

Here is a link to help school districts learn more about bullying:

Bullying in Schools and what to do about it  by: Dr. Ken Rigby

Literacy Through Entertainment

By Joel

This post is written by a student in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.

Literacy through entertainment is a new phenomenon that is having a major positive impact in today’s adolescent society.  With today’s fast growing technology, literacy is being seen, heard, and read across all different types of media.  These different types of media include the internet, television, radio, and social magazines. 

Today’s teachers have to incorporate a new way of teaching to today’s adolescents with the help of technology that is influencing our adolescents.  Social websites such as facebook, and twitter keep all of society up to date with what a individual is thinking and doing at that exact moment of the day.  This technological advancement can be used to help students stay on track with what assignments are due and who has the next chapter in the group work that is due tomorrow.  Social clubs such as the science, math, art, etc., can also keep track of important dates and rely information to other members that might not be there in person. 

The technological advancement of computers probably has had the most impact in helping today’s adolescent practice better literacy skills.  Spell checker which is on almost every single computer and lab top has helped countless amounts of people spell the correct word they are trying to type.  Some might see this as a step back on helping people practice better literacy skills, but I see it as a positive step forward in helping students see the errors that they make and then showing them the correct way to spell it.  This not only helps prevent spelling errors in the future, but also gives students a broader landscape of how they are improving their literacy skills. 

Since adolescents are strongly influenced by the entertainment culture that surrounds them it is a good idea to incorporate several out of school materials that discuss the content subject you are teaching.  Doing this will further spark interest in your students and give them a initiative of working on out of school research.  This will also keep them from getting bored to death of the same school work they have to endure throughout all their academic years.  Entertainment certainly does have it’s value in today’s school agenda.  Since I am going to be a music teacher, I am looking forward to incorporate and practice literacy through entertainment.  I will make sure all of my students are fully aware of how music can influence society and spark change for the better.