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Professor Manuel Hernández
Essays Collection

Address: : 2012 Ernest St. Kissimmee, Florida 34741

Manuel Hernandez was born in Sleepy Hollow, New York in 1963. He completed undergraduate studies at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus and finished a Master�s in Education from Herbert H. Lehman College (CUNY) in the Bronx in 1994. He has coordinated symposiums, produced and coordinated television interviews on the literature written by Puerto Rican and Latino/a writers from the Diaspora. He has done numerous presentations, workshops and seminars on how to integrate latino/a literature in the English classroom. In 2014, he participated in a TedxTalk (Connections) at Southern New Hampshire University. He is the author of three books, , Latino/a Literature in the English Classroom (Editorial Plaza Mayor, 2003), The Birth of a Rican (Imprenta Sifre. 2008) and Living the Kingdom with purpose (Imprenta Sifre, 2013). He is a Language Arts teacher at Osceola School District in Florida.

Latino Education: Literacy Intervention
By Manuel Hernandez-Carmona copyright

One of the strategies to improve children’s ability to read is to provide culturally relevant texts that not only construct self-esteem but provide a mirror in which students interact with the text itself. Statistics from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reveal that “two-thirds of students in 8th and 12th grades fail to read at a proficient level, and more than a quarter do not read at the most basic level,”( Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast and Islands, eBrief No. 2) haphazardly affecting their academic success. According to the same report, adolescent readers who fail to read at a proficient level are more likely to drop out of high school, depend on government aid and earn a lesser amount of money over a lifetime period.

There is sustained research that supports the scientific relevance of culturally based texts in the English classroom. Researchers found that ALANA (African, Latino, Asian and Native American) students performed best in settings that built on their culture and promoted their racial identities (Cultural Responsiveness, Racial Identity and Academic Success: A Review of Literature. Hanley, M. S. and Noblit, G. W.; June 2009; A Paper Prepared for the Heinz Endowments; 91 pages). In "I Want to Read": How Culturally Relevant Texts Increase Student Engagement in Reading”, the author found that culturally relevant literature and non-fiction texts increased her students' engagement in reading. Culturally relevant literature and non-fiction, combined with a focus on collaboration and comprehension strategies, resulted in students' feelings of self-interest (Feger, M.; Spring 2006; Multicultural Education, Volume 13, Number 3, Page 18-19; ERIC Number: EJ759630.). Culturally relevant texts can serve as bridges to the more advanced literary experiences.

The American Latino population continues to grow in unprecedented numbers, and the educational empowerment of the largest minority in the United States cannot be taken for granted. It is not only haphazard but unreal to ask recently arrived young adults with very limited English language proficiency, if any, to interact with a text totally irrelevant to their home culture. Once confronted with city, state and national testing requirements, they are discouraged and confronted with very limited academic resources to succeed.

But the American literacy problem does not discriminate and all children have been affected by the situation. Literacy is desperately in need of an intervention; one which recognizes the true value of traditional literature and is receptive to the literary links that will make the reading and writing experience meaningful, valuable and enabling for children. Because the development of literacy goes through stages, from “learning to read” to “reading to learn”, there is a need for bridges and culturally relevant texts can help the recently arrived to learn and read in stages. Instead of investing millions of dollars in reinforcing security and reconstructing fences along our geographical borders, let us provide the academic resources to rebuild the American educational system and expand the literary boundaries of our children; our generations deserve better.