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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.

The Bridge To The Classics: Latino/a Literature in The English Classroom

by Manuel Hernández

The largest bridge near my hometown, Sleepy Hollow, New York is the legendary Tappan Zee Bridge. It is one of the most exhilarating drives across New Yorks Hudson River. Latino Literature represents that exhilarating connection to the teaching, appreciation and literary analysis of American and British classics. The link of one to the other not only makes sense but also provides the needed context and helps students (especially Latinos) to make a personal connection to the text before driving across the more formal academic literary highway.

Carlsen and Sherill (1988) have collected reading autobiographies from teachers and have shared excerpts in a book titled, Voices of Readers, an interesting collection of testimonies about reading habits. Generally, most respondents stated their love for reading occurred in spite of what was done in schools. Some developed their appreciation of literature in school, but it usually did not occur until very late in high school or even in college. It seems that schools have accomplished just the opposite of what they intend to do: they have turned students off from reading.

Rosenblatts perspective on the links between the reader and the text opens a window of opportunities to participate in an active process whereby the reader accepts responsibility for his/her literary experience. Instead of a process where professors control and limit writing aims and objectives, students contribute to the writing experience by providing personal reactions and insight. Latino/a literature exposes students to issues such as language, education, family, values, sex, self-esteem, self-acceptance, conflicts in identity, varied approaches to race, domestic violence and the preservation of culture and art which provoke students to make their own reactions and responses to literature. Latino/a literature in the English classroom is an alternative to the teaching of literature and a tool that will prepare students for reading and writing in high school and beyond. It is the steering wheel to motivation and reading comprehension.

In the English classroom, students feel a lack of personal involvement, especially with isolated writing assignments. Latino/a Literature is filled with every day common events, characters and situations and establishes the bridge between reading and writing which connects students to ideas and themes. It is like seeing themselves in a mirror and assessing what, where, how and why they are who they are while developing reading and writing skills necessary to enter and succeed in college. How can students interact with their writing when their choices of literature are far away from their every day reality?

Our teens today are open to options. It is our responsibility as teachers, administrators, parents and educational advocates to provide them with the keys to their educational experience. The hardest experience of one of our most celebrated and recognized American Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, was not becoming President but making the one-hundred mile journey with his family from Knob Creek to Little Pigeon Creek. I strongly believe that our journey will never be as hard as Lincolns but more exhilariting like the drive across the Tappan Zee Bridge