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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.

Changing Literary Lanes in America
By Manuel Hernandez

Once upon a time, there was an English teacher who read stories to us as children in American schools in small towns, big towns and cities across the United States. We the children developed interest, gained understanding and learned to appreciate and love the American and British classics. Many of us took different roads and crossed a diversity of bridges, but the stories of Alice in Wonderland, Huckleberry Finn and Sleepy Hollow and the passion for literature are deeply ingrained in our hearts. But that is not the story for millions of Latino kids, who as teenagers are placed in America's schools speaking a different language and coming from a different literary tradition. Nonetheless, these teens are expected to pass city, national and statewide exams without having the literary experiences that we all had as American children.

The Department of Education estimates the amount of Latino children in American schools at 5,000,00. Approximately half of these are recently arrived teen immigrants. There presently could be more than 1,000,000 students who may face the greatest academic challenge of their lives. How can these students perform academically at mainstream level without having a literary foundation that will sustain their formation as students in a highly competitive educational system? How will they be prepared to make a sudden and quick change in literary lanes with one, two and even three years to prepare? It simply does not make sense! The American educational system must be more receptive and inclusive to the so-called minority literatures and allow a swift and smooth change in literary lanes. In many schools, it is only during Hispanic Heritage Month that Latino teens have the opportunity to read and hear about Piri Thomas, Pat Mora, Julia Alvarez and Cristina Garca, just to mention a few.

United States based Latino/a literature written in English by Latino/a immigrant writers themselves helps to make a transition in literary lanes to the literature of Hemingway and Shakespeare. The literature constructs upon the Latino teens' prior experiences and skills. It is a mirror of the language, culture and history of the American Latino experience and allows them to transform their learning experience into a dynamic, pro-active and meaningful adventure with purpose and a greater understanding of themselves.

Before students develop reading comprehension, literary appreciation and written communication skills in another language (English), the student makes a personal connection first. While they develop interest, the right literary environment is created. Then, the transition is established, and Latino/a literature becomes a tool/facilitator whereby the changing in literary lanes occurs systematically and spontaneously with the encouragement and support to drive across the bridge to the other side: the classics.

A new lane to work cooperatively to address the educational concerns that Latino teens face is needed. It is the changing of literary lanes so that all children have the opportunity to develop the necessary skills to pass the high school and college entrance exams and complete and undergraduate and graduate degree to realize the American Dream and succeed.