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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 Education: Adolescent Literacy
By Manuel Hernandez copyright@2006

Educators agree that the best way to improve childrens ability to read is to provide texts that not only build up self-esteem but provide a personal mirror whereby students see themselves and interact with the text itself. Educators must have the right approach and the right text to encourage and not discourage
children to become pro-active participants in an already competitive, global and cyber-tech society. Statistics, studies and research have reiterated time and time again that Americas children cannot read up to their grade given potential.

The American Latino population continues to grow in unprecedented numbers, and the educational development of the largest minority in the United States cannot be taken for granted. We have tried everything with the newly arrived child and teen, and we have gained some ground. Yet The United States Department of Education has recognized its limitation to deal with the problem of adolescent literacy with all America's teens, "Despite significant public and private investments in research to identify effective strategies for teaching young readers, millions of high school youth-having made their way through the educational system without benefiting from these strategies-are currently reading at very low levels. Without the reading skills they need to access, comprehend, and apply the information obtained from text, these students are unable to fully participate and succeed in their classes and, far too often, fail or drop out of school" (United States Department of Education website, High School Initiative).

While there is no doubt that young adults today are open to options, media moguls and entertainment industries have captivated their interest because they have offered them options. Education must meet 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. But the so-called literacy problem does not discriminate and all American children have been affected by the situation.

Why not consider "minority or alternate texts" as a bridge to the American and British classics? If the school district has a strong minority population whether it is Latino, African-American or Asian then provide educators with a mirror to create a jump-off point to Shakespeare, Hemingway, Poe and Joyce. If the school population is 20% Latino, integrate Latino/a Literature in the English classroom at least 15% of the time alloted to reading. If the majority of the school population is African-American, integrate African-American literature on an equal basis. Academic assimilation is a marathon not a one hundred-meter run. Adolescent literacy is in dire need of a vision; one which recognizes the true value of traditional literature and is receptive to the literary links that will make the reading and writing experience meaningful, valuable and enabling for our children.

These are some facts stated by the United States Department of Education itself on its website:
An estimated one-third of students enter ninth grade with reading skills that are two or more years below grade level. Twenty-eight percent of 12th-grade public school students an estimated 800,000 students scored below the "basic" level on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) 2002 reading assessment, meaning they could not demonstrate an overall understanding and make some interpretation of texts they were asked to read. Excluded from this count, of course, are the many students who drop out of high school prior to 12th grade and who also may have limited reading skills. While the reading skills of elementary and middle school students have improved modestly over the past three decades, the reading skills of 17-year olds have not. The average scores of 9- and 13-year-olds on the 1999 NAEP long-term reading assessment were significantly higher than they were in 1971. The average score of 17-year olds, however, was no higher in 1999 than it was in 1971.

The problem is evident. In some cases, there has been very little progress made in the last thirty years. Why not be part of the solution instead of dwelling on the problem? When our children look into a literary mirror, a whole new world of opportunities will open right before their very eyes. Content changes in the core curriculum will encourage and motivate children to read and write and run faster towards further literary analysis. Education in America is at a crossroads; the shorter academic path will alleviate the problem but the correct path will help our children to have a literary encounter which will not only help them walk across bridge but will enable them to improve their reading and writing skills as well.

(The author of the article is the editor/author of the acclaimed textbook, Latino/a Literature in The English Classroom and a veteran high school English teacher in Puerto Rico)