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
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