Recent Press in Texas about ELL Parent Programs

Texarkana Gazette
October 29, 2016

LEARNING TOGETHER: Local program reaches out to Latino parents and children to teach language skills
October 29th, 2016, by Jennifer Middleton in Texarkana NewsRead.
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Mindy Basurto, M.Ed.

Mindy Basurto, M.Ed., Coordinator Multilingual Education

Mindy Basurto leads a discussion about “Graciela’s Dream,” a book in English and Spanish that lays out necessary information about applying for college, with high school students and parents on Monday at Highland Park Elementary. The family literacy program has a class for parents of elementary age students that focuses on helping parents help their children with reading, and a class for parents of high schoolers that helps with applying for college and financial aid and the unique circumstances Latino students may face. Photo by Joshua Boucher /Texarkana Gazette.

The families of several Latino students in Texarkana Independent School District are learning English along with their children in a new program held at two elementary schools.

Latino Family Literacy Project classes meet at Nash and Highland Park elementaries and are designed to promote reading at the family level to bring enhanced literacy in both English and Spanish. Both schools were named primary bilingual campuses six years ago.

College-Awareness Program

College-Awareness Program

Perla Hernandez, 13, and her mother Euarista Sandate…Photo by Joshua Boucher /Texarkana Gazette.

Jennifer Cross, Highland Park’s principal, said she first became aware of the program about three years ago, and thought it would be a benefit to her Latino students.
“As we are teaching the children to be biliterate, many of our parents are still Spanish-speaking,” she said. “So this way, they are learning English. It has that ESL (English as a Second Language) component where they are learning English vocabulary and those type things, as well as just promoting that family time together around literacy.”

The Latino Family Literacy Project has won many awards, including the White House naming it a Bright Spot in Hispanic Education. Taught across the nation, the program has a 90 percent success rate.

Materials are printed in both English and Spanish and contain stories specific to the Latino cultural experience. Each week, the class goes over a story, and the parents take the books home to read to their children. Homework is also assigned and is discussed at the next meeting.

Mindy Basurto, TISD’s coordinator of Multilingual Education, said the ultimate goal for the program is to raise the literacy levels of all the district’s Latino students.

“That is somewhere where, traditionally, English language learners really struggle,” she said. “It is their second language, and we want to strengthen that through their families. There’s only so much you can do in the school day, but when you enlist the help of the families, I think that’s where we really get the most bang for the buck.”

Fifteen families of first- and second-graders have been attending the 10-week session classes at Nash and were chosen by the staff to participate in the program. At Highland Park, 20 families of students in pre-K through fifth grade were selected.

Nash Principal Patti O’Bannon said the families who attend the classes on her campus are bringing food to the meetings.

“I think that’s kind of a tradition. They’re really enjoying it,” she said. “I’ll be honest, I was kind of surprised that we had the participation and that parents are continuing to come week after week. Not only are they coming, but they’re coming with their homework completed.”

O’Bannon added that the parents are learning and putting effort into the program because they have a desire to learn the English language.

Family Reading Program for English Learners

Family Reading Program for English Learners

David Hernandez reads a story that is part…Photo by Joshua Boucher /Texarkana Gazette.

“They’re benefiting from it, as well as the family unit, in creating these family reading routines and things like that at night with their kiddos,” she said.
Keeping the classes small is another goal of the program, Basurto said, because it makes the participants feel more comfortable in discussing the material and asking questions.

“The goal for Latino Family Literacy is about 20 (families), because when you have moms and dads, and we’re teaching them in a small classroom environment, we want them to feel comfortable asking questions and talking and really digging into the material,” she said.

A program for Latino high school students and their families is also held at Highland Park to guide them through the processes of applying to college. All Latino families at Texas High were sent an invitation, with senior students receiving phone calls telling them about the program.

“It is more about college literacy, learning about financial aid, who can go to college, and learning about the cultural barriers for Latino families,” Basurto said. “We wanted to strategically look at seniors first.”

During the six-week program, which will continue to be offered throughout the year, speakers are scheduled to give the students guidance in navigating the college world.

“We bring in people from our district and local colleges to help our students think about that transition and meet people and feel confident,” Basurto said.

A spring session will also be offered, and the district is making plans to offer the Latino Family Literacy Program on all campuses next year.

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