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Leyendo con la Familia – Language and literacy at CA-South City

Books and breakfast go together at Confluence Academy-South City like paper and pencils.

On the first Tuesday and Thursday of the month, students and parents who speak Spanish as their native language are invited to read together and enjoy breakfast before the school day starts. From 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., moms, dads, sons, daughters, and even younger siblings, spend time reading bilingual books during Leyendo con la Familia.

Robert Greenhaw, English Speakers of Other Languages coordinator, explained that the literacy program started as parent outreach to Hispanic families.

“Sometimes, parents feel isolated and do not visit the school or communicate with school staff as much as our parents who speak English as their native language.

“Leyendo is a way for parents to visit the school and feel welcomed, and hopefully, they’ll get to know some of the school staff,” said Greenhaw.

Parents and students in grades PreK-2, located in the Compton building, are invited to read together on the first Tuesday of the month.  Grades 3-8, located in the Meramec building, read together on the first Thursday of the month.

For grades PreK-2, “turnout has been great. We average 20 parents a month, and we’ve had as many as 28 parents.”

Greenhaw outlined three reasons why Leyendo is important: it improves literacy in English and Spanish; if reading is valued at home by the parents, students are more likely to read at home; and the program shows Hispanic families that their native language is valued.

Simply put – if you are able to read and demonstrate comprehension skills in Spanish, it makes it easier to demonstrate and learn the same skills in English.

“It’s been shown that students who read at home for just 20 minutes a day do far better on standardized tests than students who only read at school,” he said.

“In the past, teachers held the mindset that speaking in Spanish will hinder a student’s ability to learn English skills. We really want to change that and send the message that literacy in any language is valuable. Although our school is held accountable for a student’s achievement in English-based academics, we still recognize that learning in the native language is important and will lead to more success when they’re able to transfer those skills to English.”

The ESOL program received a grant from Friends of Confluence for Spanish-English bilingual books. The majority of students who are English Language Learners speak Spanish. Leyendo is supported with Title III funds to buy food items, and to cover the cost of printing bilingual books from a website called readconamigo.org. The printed books are given to students who attend the event. Later in the month, they are given to all Spanish-speaking students in grades K-5.