Mom grateful that son can excel in English, Spanish
Arizona Daily Star
August 1, 2004
By Lupita Peņa
You are reading my words in translation because, although I have learned A lot of English since coming to the United States, I am not able to communicate in my second language as well as I can in Spanish. My son, on the other hand, is comfortably fluent and literate in both languages. Bilingual education has made all the difference for him.
Since the time he began kindergarten four years ago, my son has been enrolled in bilingual education. I have always understood that bilingual education has one principal goal: to help students learn English.
Blessed with excellent bilingual-education teachers at Tully Accelerated Magnet School, my son began to speak English almost immediately. By the time He was in second grade, his test scores demonstrated that he was completely fluent in English, not only in speaking but also in reading and writing.
At that point, I could have had my son placed in a mainstream class, but I wanted more for him. Although Spanish is his native language, I wanted him to continue developing academic reading and writing skills in Spanish as well as in English. I have seen too many Latino students shifted into English-only classes where their Spanish remains frozen at a low level or, worse yet, atrophies into Spanglish. They fail to develop an academic vocabulary and never develop reading and writing skills in Spanish. I will not let that happen to my child.
State schools superintendent Tom Horne has made it difficult for parents such as myself to take advantage of the rich opportunity that bilingual education provides for our children. Fortunately, the Tucson Unified School District has opted to respect the wishes of parents and to continue providing bilingual education under the waiver provisions available by law. The district understands just how important language skills are in a country that is demographically destined to become predominantly bilingual and to hold the world's second-largest population of Spanish-speakers.
Many parents of English-speaking children have come to the same conclusion.
The fastest-growing bilingual education programs are those referred to As Dual Language programs, intended to mix together children from two different language groups in a way that allows them to learn each other's language. Schools that continue to ignore the obvious and to limit children to monolingual education do them a terrible disservice.
My son, an honor student in every sense of the word, is eager to begin the new academic year at Tully and to continue to progress in what I hope will be a lifelong habit of learning in ore than one language. This is why I support bilingual education.
Lupita Peņa is a homemaker, school volunteer and president of Justicia
Los Niņos, a community action group in support of families with
children who are learning English. This piece was translated by Carlos