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.

L4LL Blog Hop

By Readingintheborderlands

The Latinas for Latino Lit blog has organized a blog hop for the month of April in honor of Día de los Libros:

This year, we are happy to announce that we have increased the number to two dozen Latino authors/illustrators paired with top Latina bloggers in comparison with last year’s 20! Starting here on our site on April 6th, a different author/illustrator will appear on a different blog, writing an original short article or creating an original illustration in support of Latino children’s literacy. The Día Blog Hop concludes on April 30th here on L4LL, culminating with a special announcement.

Lots of wonderful authors and illustrators! See the schedule here.

Promoting Biliteracy Development Through Multicultural Literature

This semester students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

La Lectura, un mundo para descubrir

By Julie Cuevas

Given the changing demographics in the United States, multicultural literature (books) must be available in all classrooms. The presence of these books suggests that teachers value other languages and cultures. Multicultural literature is an effective resource for increasing students’ awareness of diversity of cultures and languages by exposing them to different traditions, life styles, stories, cultures and languages. Bilingual books can play an important part in supporting English Language Learners’ native and second language development as well as bi-literacy development. Children who learn to read in their native language do not need to relearn to read in English, instead print knowledge and literacy skills transfers from the native language to English. Research supports that literacy in the student’s first language facilitates student’s development of proficiency in their native and second language, following academic success, and high levels of self-confidence and biliteracy ability. As a result, supporting the development of biliteracy is crucial in preparing students from minority language backgrounds to succeed in educational settings.

For English language learners, having opportunities to read materials in their first language can serve to affirm and value their native language and culture, as well as value them as good readers, even though they may struggle when they read English. The benefits of integrating multicultural literature in the native language of students increase their enthusiasm and reading comprehension. Similarly, monolingual students can also benefit from having access to a vast array of reading materials in different languages and representing different cultures. The presence of such reading materials sends clear messages to all students of the value and appreciation that their school and teachers attach to other languages and cultures.

Due to the importance of integrating a wide variety of multicultural books in classroom libraries, below is a list of books that can be included;

Books with the complete text in two languages

My diary from... My Diary from Here to There by Amada Irma Perez






Playing Loteria Playing Loteria/El Juego de la Loteria by Rene Colato Lainez






Books that switch between languages (English/Spanish – Code switching)

Chato and the party.... Chato and the Party Animals by Gary Soto






CCrazy Mixed up Spanglish day...razy Mixed-up Spanglish Day by Marisa Montes






Books in English, interspersed with words or phrases in another language

 TThe Rainbow Tuliphe Rainbow Tulip by Pat Mora






How tia Lola came to stay How Tia Lola Came to Stay by Julia Alvarez






Books available only in a language other than English.

Una Noche inolvidable... Una Noche Inolvidable by Robert & Estrella Menchaca






EL tapiz de mi abuela... El Tapiz de mi Abuela by Omar Castaneda






Multicultural literature is an effective tool to foster second language acquisition and biliteracy development for a variety of learners, as well as improve home-school connections, supports family literacy programs, increase children’s awareness of multiculturalism, and encourage reading for pleasure. It is essential to integrate multicultural literature to assist teachers (including monolingual teachers), to promote multiple literacies that broaden student’s perspectives and appreciation of diversity of languages, cultures, and learn of different stories of children around the world.

Becoming Biliterate

This semester, students in READ 6329.10 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Rogelio Rios

I am pleased to learn that biliteracy is gaining an increased amount of attention in recent years due to the diverse communities across America. By being biliterate a child is able to speak, read and write in at least two languages. I believe that schools adapting a biliteracy curriculum would only enhance and with no doubt make the students more successful. In the Rio Grande Valley children are brought up bilingual and are coming to the schools in many cases being biliterate already. I believe that it’s a mistake on the school’s part not to use this to further the learning experience of the students. As an educator in this community I believe that the job of the schools should be to furnish biliteracy, especially if they have a large population of bilingual students like here in The Valley.

In most situations our school districts try to assimilate our ELLs into a path where children are leaving their first language behind and receiving mainly English instruction. I believe that a child’s first language shouldn’t be left behind, rather it should be reinforced while the child is acquiring a second language. By doing so no instruction time is lost in the process of transitioning from one language to another. By providing instruction on both languages the child will learn how to transfer reading skills and strategies back and forth from one language to the other.

In a biliterate classroom an assessment tool that the educator can use with their particular students in determining the students’ gains on both languages can be by having the child fill out a self-assessment form.  The child would individually rate their language skills in each language in the areas of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The child would then add the total number of points for each language. Finally they will come up with the overall total combining both columns to see what the over-all score is in his/her biliteracy abilities. This self-assessment tool would help the child by highlighting the areas of greater need also the areas the child feels confident on. In addition, the results can serve as a guide for the teacher in planning future lessons.

I’ve see a rise of schools that are starting to adopt a dual language curriculum. I believe that this is the start in the right direction. I hope that more districts begin to take notice and that soon more of our neighboring schools adopt a dual language program.