Illiteracy is Directly Impacted by Poverty in the Rio Grande Valley

This semester, students in READ 3325.20B were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Norma A. Salinas and Leticia Sanchez

Fighting illiteracy and fight poverty in the Rio Grande Valley go hand in hand. Unfortunately children are the ones that take the full blown impact. Illiteracy is passed on by parents to their children. When children’s parents do not encourage them to read or write at home, they struggle more when they start school. The less fortunate children are found living in colonias along the Rio Grande River. Their socioeconomic status makes life difficult for them; other more fortunate children enjoy the luxury of having books, iPads, and every other educational gadget available to them, they also have educated parents that encourage them to read, write and study at home, and this helps tremendously when you get to school.

When children are hungry or cold, they start visualizing themselves with what the most fortunate kids possess so learning does not become your first priority; your survival instinct kicks in. As my mother used to say, “You cannot learn on an empty stomach.”

RGVWhile I was doing my field hours at a local elementary school during the summer, I witnessed a Pre-Kinder student that was crying right after getting off from the bus, I asked him what the reason for his crying was and he told me that he was hungry. He thought he was not going to have breakfast because his bus got to school late and the kitchen personnel were already cleaning the area and putting everything away. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach with such force that I felt dizzy. I went to the kitchen and asked the cooks to prepare a plate for him, after having breakfast; he seemed like the happiest kid in the planet. When your stomach is full, then you can take care of other business, but if you are on an empty stomach, food becomes your primary and only concern. Living in the most powerful country in the world and children are starving right on our border towns. The government does nothing to help these children because a large percentage of them are in this country illegally, but their stomachs do not know about legalities. Why do children have to worry about where their next meal will be coming from? Poor children often do not like to miss school because they know that they will be fed at school, but at home it’s a different story.

Children need to be provided the same learning opportunities that other children have access to, if children lack textbooks, dictionaries or any reading material necessary, the school districts need to provide the students with the learning tools necessary for their learning development. School counselors should have the responsibility to provide and make sure children meet their bare essentials and that they are in a good state of mind in order for them to learn. Hunger directly affects the cognitive abilities in children and this should be remediated at all cost. So before we take on a challenge to help children read, we first need to concentrate on the first priority which is; to feed the hungry and then, take the necessary steps to combat illiteracy in our young children.

Reading Mislead!

This semester, students in READ 3325.20B were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Servando Lopez

Starting from elementary all the way to high school, they have integrated the Accelerated Reader (AR) in schools as a form of assessment for us students to “motivate” us to read. Coming from Mexico and my native language being Spanish, I found this not very motivational since I was in a way being forced to read books and test on them. At times they would even require certain amount of points at the end of the month for a class grade.  This only added more stress and I started to see reading as something I had to do rather than something I want to do.  In addition, reading to me became just the reading of words that I had to read and test in in order to get a good grade in class.

But is this reading is all about? No. Reading is more than just reading words off a book. Reading is something people do as a hobby, as a form of distraction, to gain knowledge from; it is where students use reading to learn whatever the reader is interested about. The definition of reading changes from expert to expert, but the reality is that reading is a mixture of those definitions that include fluency and comprehension of the text. Schools should have more sustained silent reading (SSR) or drop everything and read (DEAR) time within the classroom as a form of motivation to show the students that reading is not only used as a form of assessment, but as a form of incentive and for fun. Incorporate more read alouds and shared readings so we as teachers can display the importance of reading by showing that reading is fun while also educational.  Teachers should have a large variety of books with easy access for students in the classroom (like a mini library) so as an effect, students can have books close by to read in their free or designated times. This is what reading should look like to teachers and students rather than seeing it as a form of assessment.

How Reading Concepts Are Used

This semester, students in READ 3325.20B were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Nancy Solis & Kelley Villarreal

When teachers start teaching children how to read they use several reading concepts to help them understand the importance of reading. In order to become a “good reader” teachers apply the following concepts: alphabetic principle, phonemic awareness, fluency, and comprehension. These concepts help teachers elaborate a good method to start molding the students in becoming good readers.

Even before students enter school they come with some knowledge of understanding what letters are. Usually they are not familiar with the meaning or purpose of the letters but they make the connection with words that they are familiar with. Many children are accustomed to seeing signs and associating them to what they know. For example, when they see the letter “M” on the word McDonalds they associate it with food. It is important for children to understand the alphabetic principle because it is the first step in the formation of words and reading. When learning the alphabet students learn to distinguish between a consonant and a vowel. The students should be aware and understand the systematic of the relation between the letters and spoken sound as per the alphabetic principle.

Phonemic awareness is the ability for the children to make the connection between the sound and letter to make a word. This can help the children see that each letter can be manipulated with other letters to form a word. Many schools use this concept because it helps build the students metalinguistic knowledge. One instruction used to teach phonemic awareness would be blending sounds to form words. For example, having the letters c, a, p  making the word “cap” the students will then replace the first letter with a “t” making the word “tap”.

Once the children have achieved the understanding of letter and sound relationship then they are able to identify words in their surroundings. Fluency is also measured by timing each child individually by reading a passage for a minute. Teachers at this point start assessing children to see if they grasp the relationship between letters and sounds by providing them with a series of reading strategies to see if they are fluent in reading. Some of the reading strategies used by the teacher to help improve and maintain the fluency of readers are coral reading, cloze reading, and buddy reading. Coral reading is when the student and teacher read out loud together. Cloze reading is when the teacher reads out loud for the student while the student is silently reading and following along. Buddy reading is when the students read together with a partner.

Comprehension is the child’s ability to understand what they are reading. In order for the student to be successful in reading they should have mastered all the other concepts. Teachers use various types of strategies to determine the student’s comprehension. Overall, the alphabetic principle, phonemic awareness, fluency, and comprehension all go hand in hand in helping the teacher successfully gather all the data regarding the child’s ability to understand and read proficiently.


Motivating Students to Read

This semester, students in READ 3325.20B were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Bertha and Maritza

20130205_143616Many students in today’s classrooms dislike and are unmotivated to read. As students get older, the amount of reading that they do on their own becomes less and less because of the lack of interest.  As educators, we must find ways to motivate our students to read by providing them with incentives, and great experiences at a young age, so that as they get older, they can enjoy reading.  Many don’t have those experiences at home.  As teachers, we must expose our students to authentic literature by sparking an interest to the world around them once they open a book.

Many schools have been using incentives that go with programs such as the Accelerated Reader where students get prizes at the end of the year.  Students are given a goal at the beginning of the year, and once it’s accomplished, students are recognized.  Other schools have students accumulate points depending on the difficulty and length of the books, then they test and earn points once they pass their quiz for that book.  Points can then be redeemed towards prizes their library has.   Some districts go as far as rewarding students by providing larger awards. For instance, certain schools in the valley take students on field trips once they have read a million words, thus naming them “Millionaires”.  Prizes vary by districts, and by how much importance their teachers place on reading.  This type of program has motivated many students to read, but what happens once there are no rewards?  What happens when the rewards aren’t as grand?  What needs to happen for a student to become passionate about reading?

Students should be exposed to literature that will awaken their interest in reading. Students need to be motivated to want to read for the enjoyment of it, not just because they have to and because they will be rewarded.  We as teachers must find ways to provide meaningful activities to accompany the lesson for that specific book we read.  For example, if we were to be doing a lesson on fruits, we could do activities having to deal with the grapefruits and oranges that are grown here in the valley.  We can find books on how many years it takes for the trees to grow and produce the fruit.  We can have a guest speaker from Big Tex, and give the students information on how our fruits are used to produce those juices everyone knows about.  We can even go as far as doing some research on what the process is for making the juice.  The thing we need to do is get them to read, and reading can’t only be done through books, it can be done through magazines, brochures, billboards and many other ways. The activities must be fun and interesting for the students, and they should also provide a meaningful purpose for reading.

Many of our students lack the exposure to literature at home, and once they come to school, there is no foundation.  It is our duty to set that foundation for them, and begin to create what will hopefully one day be a passionate reader.  We need to focus on sparking that interest, and once we do that, students at all grade levels will benefit greatly by it.  The elementary schools are doing a great deal by providing that foundation and motivation by means of incentives, but it is up to each and every one as educators to continue building on that foundation to make our students passionate readers.  There is no one way to approach this, but we do know that the more students are exposed to authentic literature, the better off they will be.

students reading

A Book-rich Classroom Environment

This semester, students in READ 3325.20B were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Alejandra Ramirez & Anna Bejarano

booksReading is a very important hobby that we should all practice starting at a young age. Often at a young age, children are interested in reading material that it’s to their interest and teachers as well as parents should provide a book-rich classroom environment. A book-rich classroom environment is very important because children should love reading at a young age to have the habit of reading, as they get older. Reading opens many doors in life as well as expands your knowledge. Every child should have the opportunity to access books of their choice at school, in their hometown, and at home.

A book-rich classroom environment should include many books with different topics. They can be categorized by fiction and non-fiction books; English and Spanish books as well. It is important for the teacher, parent, or librarian in charge to provide a variety of topics in different languages since we all share different likes and interests. Providing a comfortable and safe environment in a classroom is very important as well because children should feel comfortable in an area designed for reading. A couch, beanbags, and a quiet sign are important to include in the area designed for students to read.

Teachers and parents should always allow students to read books during the day.  Rewarding a child with books or reading time is very important because children should look forward to reading time. If we as teachers or parents don’t encourage the importance of providing a book-rich classroom environment, children will not love to read. Motivation is a very important key here. Children must always feel motivated to read and succeed in life. At a young age, they might not know how important it is to grab a book and read; Teachers should be a role model to their students and show a positive and enthusiastic attitude towards reading.

A book-rich classroom environment is the start of building a good future. Books provide many knowledge, skills, and vocabulary for students to expand. Reading will help a child open many doors in life and become a knowledgeable student. By providing a book-rich classroom environment with a variety of books in different languages and with different interests is the start of loving to read. Teachers and parents should set the example of role models and never forget to motivate a child to read. Lets provide a book-rich classroom environment and give children the best gift in life, reading.

“The greatest gift is a passion for reading.” – Elizabeth Hardwick

How the cueing systems help students read

This semester, students in READ 3325.20B were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Gisela Rodriguez and Ana Alanis

When learning to read, children problem solve using the three cueing systems, which are the following: semantic, syntactic, and graph phonic. Semantic relates to the meaning while syntactic relates to the grammatical structure. Grapho- phonic is the letter sound patterns and the visual information of how words and letters look like.

Semantic is a division of linguistics concerned with the study of meaning. When a word is anonymous the known words around that word are the source of semantic cues. For example, in the following sentence “The children are playing _________ the gym.” You can insert either at, in, outside, or beyond which are all semantically suitable. The words that would not be suitable are between, on, and into. Children are often mislead by the idea that they should sound out a word first when coming across an unknown word. However, this causes students reading to become slow and strenuous which affects their comprehension. Another reason why this might not always help students reading comprehension is due to the fact that many of the English words are not spelled the way they sound or many words are homonyms. For this reason, it is preferably that students stop and think about the story when reading to see what would make sense instead of try to sound out words.

Syntax involves the reader’s knowledge of the grammar or structure of language. In other words syntax is the order or sequence of the words that affects the meaning and grammatical purpose of an unknown word. For example in the sentence “They painted the room purple” can also be said “They painted the purple room”. Although when the sequence is rearranged the meaning has completely changed. This cuing system is crucial for children to learn to formulate complete and complex sentences. Integration of the semantic and syntactic systems will help a reader interpret an unknown word by making sense using the meaning and by what would sound right using the structure.

Grapho- phonic (visual information) is using the letters in words and how words look like along with the letter sound patterns. In other words this cueing system helps readers combine phonic and graphic knowledge in reading a text. Students learn how to correspond a letter in any font to the sounds it pertains to. Teachers can support experimentation to teach letter sound patterns by spelling to sound out words, modeling how to pronounce words, and calling attention to rhyming words, and alliterations. This helps students in dividing words into syllables or chunks. For example a teacher can discuss the rhyme “Itsy Bitsy Spider” itsy and bitsy have the same ending sounds but different beginning sounds. The grapho- phonic system along with syntax and semantics make up the essence of a proficient reader.

In conclusion, good readers use the meaning of the text along with the structure of the English language and the letter-sound patterns to decode unknown words. By conducting a miscue analysis teachers can easily figure out which of the three cueing systems a child relies heavily on. It is important that a child integrates the three cueing systems to problem solve text so comprehension of what is being read is accomplished.