Early Latino Literacy

One in four American children is Latino. This demographics has the lowest education attainment levels in the country.

-U.S. White House Initiative

When progress is low, is it time to check your ABC ‘tools’? Do they fit kindergartners from Spanish speaking homes?

Currently TRADITIONAL English-only images, B is for BED/cama, BEAR/oso are the commonly accepted images displayed to (ssh) kindergartners learning shared Spanish/English ABCs; D, M, R, T, etc.

Since the mixed signals of English – only images are liable to be confusing to many (ssh) kindergartners, often teachers then assume, ‘these students will just have to grow into them,’ as is the practice now.

The importance of separating the ABCs into English and Spanish similar sounds has not yet been widely recognized. Neither has significance of dividing the ABCs into Spanish and English similar sounds been appreciated. Therefore, today the ‘tool’ in play is a “one-size” fits all, in spite of the fact that (ssh) Latinos also have an valuable alternative: COGNATES. These user-friendly examples carry no ‘downtime’: BOAT/barco, BICYCLE/bicicleta, etc.

The recent 2017 “Blunt findings” from the prestigious National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine provide a wealth of material for ABC considerations. With a little language research, teachers should be able to realize the value of adjusting their early literacy instruction material to expand to other than the usual English-only types of ABC clues, mainly COGNATES. Ssh Latino beginning readers should then have an additional opportunity to joyfully read English site words; play, eat, dog, tree, as quickly as their native English speaking peers.

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