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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/a Literature: A Resource For Standardized Testing

by Manuel Hernández

Latino/a Literature is a resource for young adults and
standardized testing in America. Voices of concerns were depicted in a
widely televised special on November 30, 2003 on Fox television. The
prime time segment dedicated a series on education to vividly document
stories of teens with problems with standardized testing. America is
looking for answers and embarking on a journey of redefining its
solutions. A resource for the teaching of literature in the United
States of America may be Latino/a literature.

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 educators to
provide and include additional material and instruction to help students
fill in the missing links. Closing the gap on standardized testing
means going beyond the classics.

According to the United States Census statistics, there were 35.8
million people of Latino origin living in the United States in the year
2000. Recent 2003 numbers places the largest minority near the 40
million mark (13 percent of the U.S.A. population). Latino writers 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 voice in American
letters today. They have developed a powerful and dynamic literary voice
and are being anthologized like never before. Even The Anthology of
American Literature (Prentice-Hall, 1997), one of America’s most
influential collection of classical writings, includes the literary
works of the highly awarded writers, Tomás Rivera and Sandra Cisneros,
alongside Hemingway, Updike and Longfellow.

Americans are demanding a quality education for all children. One of
the four principles of the Government’s No Child Left Behind Law is an
emphasis on teaching methods that have worked in the past. In a workshop
that I performed for the New York City High Schools/English Language
Learners Office in 2000 and 2001, English and English as a Second
Language high school teachers shared testimonies (Integrating Latino/a
Literature in The English Classroom, Part V, television production for
the Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network) on how Latino/a
Literature had provided young adults with motivation and preparation
for the Regents exams. Mr. Joseph Lizardi ,ex-playwright and ESL-HS
teacher from Roosevelt High School in The Bronx, New York, said that he
had used the literary works of Latino/a writers to prepare and tutor
ESL kids and had noticed positive results in the Regents exams.

In the English classroom, students feel a lack of personal
involvement, especially with isolated writing assignments. Latino/a
Literature is filled with every day and common events and establishes a
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 high school and higher
education. How can students interact with their reading-writing when
their choices of literature are far away from their every day reality?

Young adults today are open to options. Media moguls and
entertainment industries have captivated their interest because they
have offered them options. Education must stay abreast with the
challenges that our children face today. It is our responsibility as
teachers, administrators, parents and educational advocates to provide
them with innovations in their educational experience. According to
statistics by the Department of Education, only 17 percent of Hispanic
fourth-graders read at their grade level. Imagine what may happen to
the reading skills of these kids once they reach high school by the end
of the decade, if there academic demands are not met wisely. Why not
provide them with an opportunity to make literature their own? If No
Child Left Behind reiterates that all children are provided with
quality instruction that will give them the opportunity to reach their
greatest academic potential, and it provides the resources states and
school districts need to fulfill this national priority, then provide
them with options. Latino/a literature in the English classroom is a
resource that should not be taken for granted and may redefine the
literary analysis of contemporary American letters.

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/writing program should provide opportunites for
diverse daily reading and various types of writing. The classics are
and will always be part of the American curriculum, but Latino/a
literature provides our children with a refreshening alternative and may
supplement a well-balanced reading-writing program and help create
interest in reading and writing which will in return augment scores in
the “nations report card”, the National Assessment of Educational