Latino/a Literature Closes The Gap
by Manuel Hernández
Latino/a Literature closes the gap on teens in the United
States. Voices of concerns are depicted in an Editorial published
on Monday, November 24, 2003 in Puerto Ricos English speaking
Pulitzer Prize Newspaper, The San Juan Star. The Editorial
expressed concerns about a reality that we all know by now;
our children are reading less today and as a result, scoring
below average on standardized exams. This past Saturday (November
30, 2003) Fox television also dedicated a segment on its series
on Education to vividly document stories of children with
problems with standardized testing. America is looking for
answers and embarking on a journey of redefining its solutions.
An alternative to the teaching of literature may be the teaching
of Latino/a literature.
Recent studies indicate that there is a strong relationship
between reading and writing. Two scholars in the area (Noyce
and Christie, 1989) state that the mind assimilates information
to explain the missing link between skills and reading/writing.
Therefore it is up to teachers to include additional instruction
to help students fill in those missing links. Closing the
gap on standardized testing means going beyond the classics
and traditional literature.
According to the 2000 United States Census statistics, there
are 35.8 million people of Latino origin living in the United
States mainland. The ones that migrated to the United States
before, during and immediately after World War II, and those
who were born and grew up in the United States have come out
of the melting pot and have become a vital force developing
a voice in American letters today.
Today, Latino/a authors have developed a literary voice of
their own and are being anthologized like never before. The
study of literature is the only situation in which students
have to explore issues that are relevant to their interests.
Latino/a literature combines the language, history and the
cultural expression of the Latino/a experience that allows
students to examine these themes and make language their own
by making personal connections with their lives and background
information. Themes include education, identity, varied approaches
to race, self-esteem, peer-pressure, family, domestic violence,
mother-son-daughter; father-son-daughter relationships, just
to mention a few. Effectively used and implemented, Latino/a
literature may improve educational outcomes and provide the
preparation needed for students to enter and succeed in college.
Like the previously mentioned Editorial states, Disappointing
test results have many causes, but one of them are the choices
that administrators and teachers make for their children.
Additional research in the study of young adult literature
demonstrates that language is learned through use rather than
through practice exercises. Second, children need to be given
opportunities to make language their own by making connections
with their lives and background information. Finally, A well-designed
reading and writing program should provide opportunites for
diverse daily reading and various types of writing. The classics
will always be part of our curriculum, but Latino/a literature
provides children with a refreshening alternative and helps
create interest in reading and writing which will in return
augment scores in the nations report card, the National Assessment
of Educational Progress.