Bilingual teens share value of reading

Most foreign language teachers would agree that the best way for students to learn a new language is to immerse themselves in the culture.

But what’s that person to do if the cultural shift takes place before the student understands the subtleties of his or her native tongue?

“Read,” said Hood River Valley High School junior Miguel Villegas, a Mexican student who is improving his reading and writing in both English and Spanish in Mary Ann Hay’s Spanish for Native Speakers class. “We want to help younger kids learn both languages by teaching them the importance of reading,” he said.

But when Villegas and the other 20

students in the class visited May Street Elementary School on Monday to present a series of children’s books to Carlos Marroquin’s English Second Language students, they weren’t just helping educate their younger peers. They were also doing some learning of their own.

“This class has helped me improve my use of both languages,” said junior Rosario Tello. “Most of us have learned that it’s a huge advantage to be able to speak both languages well. We want to help the kids understand that.”

Tello and her project partners, Maribel Morales and Julio Vela, have been working on their illustrated, bilingual children’s book, Soy un Pequeno Insecto — “I’m a Small Insect” — for the past three weeks.

Monday’s visit to May Street was phase two of their class project — a project that Hay hopes will help her students attain a Certificate of Advanced Mastery (CAM) at the CAM Expo May 8 in The Dalles.

“The third phase isn’t a requirement of the class, but we do encourage students to take the next step,” she said. “A project like this not only teaches them to read and write better, but it gives them a taste of the real world.”

Students who choose to forgo the expo will still have an opportunity to earn their CAM by pursuing a Career Pathways Certificate. That certification, when combined with a Certificate of Initial Mastery (CIM), automatically becomes a CAM.

“Even if the kids don’t pursue the CAM next month, this project and this class have helped them to read and write better in their native language,” Hay said. “Most of them don’t read for fun, and we hope an activity like this will make reading more of a fun activity for them.”

Hay’s class will continue to present its books to elementary students throughout the week, but after just one day, it was apparent how much both groups had benefitted.

“Our main goal is for the kids to learn to read well,” Villegas said.

“After working with us, we hope they understand how much reading can do for them.”

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