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Professor Manuel Hernández
Essays Collection

Email: josejosue24@gmail.com
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.
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A News Chapter in the Story of Literature
By Manuel Hernandez-Carmona copyright
mannyh32@puertoricans.com

Literacy is in dire need of a news chapter. Culturally relevant literature depicts characters, stories and situations that students can relate to and makes the link between the simple narrative and free verse expression to the more developed and advanced literary discourse. As minority populations in the United States and around the world continue to escalate, there is still very little, if any, recognition of the academic outcome that culturally relevant literature can provide to improve literacy in the English classroom.

As an English as a Second Language teacher in New York City twenty-two years ago, I had recently arrived high school students from El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Colombia and Puerto Rico, many of them with one, maybe two years of residence in the United States. When I received the course syllabus for the so-called ESL tenth grade class,I saw Hemingway, Poe and Shakespeare among the group of writers to be read during the semester; I was enthusiastic and elated about beginning the semester by introducing such great authors and literary works. But after an intensive first week of Romeo and Juliet, I understood that I had a major dilemma. Students strived to connect to the star-crossed lovers but their social, cultural, personal and academic backgrounds were far away from the lives of the Montagues and Capulets of fair Verona.

Sustained research (Connecting Students to Culturally Relevant Texts, http://www.utpa.edu/dept/curr_ins/faculty_folders/gomez_l/docs/reading_3.pdf ) has validated culturally based literature as pivotal in the initial stages of “learning to read”. Prior knowledge helps students to construct bridges to make predictions and outcomes about the poem, story, essay or drama read in the English classroom. Reading for pleasure and identity encourages and stimulates the recently arrived to make personal connections. In a “learning to read” environment, pleasure and enjoyment form the initial jump-off point for further literary development. When students construct meaning from a personal standpoint, their engagement with reading develops smoothly, and academic success is just a step away.

Books are divided into chapters, and the study of literature today needs a new chapter written in its glorious pages. Literature must make a transition from its hard-core traditionalist approach to a much more receptive and integrated reading experience. Even city, state and national standardized exams should include a more varied list of authors which may include: Esmeralda Santiago, Sandra Cisneros, Julia Alvarez, Pat Mora, Sandra Maria Esteves, Junot Diaz, Martin Espada, Piri Thomas, Cristina Garcia, Tato Laviera and other nationally and even internationally acclaimed Latino/a authors. While the Latino/a population continues to grow in unprecedented numbers, a news chapter in the story of literature is past due and vital to the history of education in the United States