Latino Group Funds Language Classes
Retired teacher Maria Paredes struggled to speak English as a youngster.
Her ears heard "soap" but her tongue pronounced it "soup." And when she tried to pronounce "puddles of water," her tongue expressed "poodles of water."
English is confusing to the non-English speaker because of phonetics and the different pronunciation words require, Paredes said.
"The language is very, very difficult," she said.
When the League of United Latin American Citizens offered an opportunity to head the Young Readers Program, the elderly Hispanic woman snatched the volunteer job. Her longtime dream to help children learn English in a nurturing classroom had arrived.
LULAC, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., empowers Latinos in the areas of education, civil rights and politics. It operates more than 20 Young Readers programs across the country, including the one spearheaded by Paredes.
Armed with $8,000 from LULAC, Paredes designed a curriculum for first- through third-grade students at Roosevelt Elementary School District's Valley View School. She chose the school, at 8220 S. Seventh Ave., because she met a group of students lobbying at the state Capitol against Proposition 203, which voters approved and placed limits on bilingual education in public schools.
English immersion is fine, Paredes said, but she believed that the language should be taught with a certain method. Instead of rapidly teaching children to learn, she believes that instruction requires patience.
The volunteer made LULAC funds stretch as she crafted a literacy program called Summit Youth Program, a four-times-a-week gathering of students. She added an after-school tutoring program in February that was staffed by four teachers. Each instructor earns $22 an hour and teaches students how to read and write English on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Jacqueline Solorio, one of about 45 first-graders in LULAC's Young Readers Program, is taught by Burla Whitmarsh. She is a K-1 teacher at Valley View in Room 28.
The 6-year-old struggles to pronounce and spell the conjunction AND. She writes and spells AND like this, AHD. Her little ears hear an H in the short word. Whitmarsh helps the child sound out the word and spell it properly.
"Jacqueline is an English learner who got stuck on the word AND," Whitmarsh said, adding that it takes three months for students to pronounce English words correctly. "They catch on very fast. We allow them to understand a second language."