Edu-Wednesday: Books Before Pencils

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Guest Post by Reynaldo Macias (@ReynaldoMacias)

There were books in my parents’ bedroom. There were books in my parents’ office.  There were books on my nightstand with pictures in them before I could read, and books with words and pictures after I learned.  I learned to speak when Winnie the Pooh asked Christopher Robin for some honey, sounding out the words to make sense of the pictures, or the other way around (I’m not sure). And my parents read to me at night, sending me to sleep with language and pictures that I made up to see what they were reading. The input was more important than the output before I went to school.

Necesitamos poner libros en las manos de todos los niños Latinos, Americanos y Latino Americanos, también, y aún más temprano.  Early childhood education begins before children set foot in school, before they pick up a pencil. It is the basis for, and a strong indicator of, academic success as they get older. With “less than half [of Latino children] enrolled in any early learning program”[1] we are sending them into schools underprepared to learn, without the language to articulate their difficulties.  And, on top of this, there are other forces standing directly in their way once they arrive.

In her book, The Latino Education Crisis, Patricia Gándara examines the structural and societal obstacles to educating Latinos in the United States.  From political pogroms like Arizona’s attack on the Tucson Unified School District’s highly successful Mexican American Studies program, to the current vilification of illegal and legal immigrants (read: Latinos) in state legislatures across the country, Latino children’s educations are being thwarted with devastating impact. “Only about half earn their high school diploma on time; [and] those who do complete high school are only half as likely as their peers to be prepared for college,”[2] and “only 12 percent of Latino students are completing a Bachelor of Arts degree.”[3]

The Obama Administration has begun to address the external obstacles.  The Department of Education and the White House recently coauthored a report “Winning the Future: Improving Education for the Latino Community” which identified not only the status of education amongst Latinos, but also begins to at least articulate changes in the structure of public education to benefit them as well.  And in Tucson, current Latino students are using the oldest method of expression, direct protest, to stop people interested in the demise of Latino education.

Politically, those of us in advanced years, having matriculated from educational institutions or simply left them, need to begin cultivating candidates and politicians like President Obama, of whatever political affiliation, who understand the importance of giving Latino children a Head Start, and making sure that those early childhood education programs are financially accessible.

Most importantly, though, and most immediate, is we need to get them books.  Books with pictures before they can read.  Books with pictures and words after.  Books in English and books in Spanish.  Books before pencils. The input is more important that the output before they go to school. Books.

RESOURCES:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Reynaldo A. Macías teaches history, politics, citizenship, technology and public speaking in Southern California. In his spare time, he writes political analysis and commentary focusing on the recovery of the United States, and the continuing struggle of the American populace to reconcile the present circumstance with the ideals envisioned and codified by the founding documents of the United States on his blog. A graduate of both the University of California, Los Angeles and Brown University, Reynaldo has been an educator and published author for the last fifteen years. When not writing lesson plans or peeling back the layers of modern patriotism, Reynaldo also prides himself an amateur photographer and aspiring novelist.

Comments

comments

10 Comments
  1. valya1922@gmail.com'

    ‘Book before pencils’ this must be a moto for every internet writer))) Thats why I prefer quality and proven information from the writers with good reputation, especialy, if i need to write my term paper.

  2. gabby@dq2v.com'
    Gabby 7 years ago

    Education is so important – that is what my father who came from a very poor background and is now a leading doctor has always drilled into me. But I see many other people who don’t put literacy and education as important. Why is that when it can make life so much easier for ourselves?

  3. javier@d23c.com'
    Javier 7 years ago

    That’s really astonishing that only 50% of hispanic teenagers only complete their high school diploma on time. Why is it that we do not try and emphasize the beauty of being educated?

  4. miguel@2fv4v.com'
    Miguel 7 years ago

    Maybe the lack of money to go further in school so people drop out? Going to college is fairly expensive…

  5. nuno@faoi24f.com'
    Nuno 7 years ago

    We should follow the Finnish model of education. In Finland, when a child is born, books are given as a present from the Government to encourage parents to read to their children from an early age. It’s no wonder that the Finnish are some of the smartest people in the world since studying and education is encouraged. They obviously have a high rate of literacy although their numeracy levels are probably very high too. This nation also has one of the highest rates of Master degree holders in the world – so much so that even primary school teachers actually hold master degrees. Can you imagine if our children were taught by people as smart as master degree holders at school?

  6. olivia@d23c.com'
    Olivia 7 years ago

    How about scholarships and other things? Or maybe Latin Associations can donate money so our best and brightest who need the money to go to school can actually finish their well-deserved education? I know that many of us have financial difficulties, but surely if everyone donated a small sum of cash – even $5 – $10 – it can make a difference in at least one person’s life. They would have to pay us back of course to make it a continuing cycle.

  7. michael@d23c.com'
    Michael 7 years ago

    The Finnish model is probably rather difficult to implement though, and there is another problem – adult literacy. I suppose that Finland had to start from somewhere though as I have heard from friends that they were one of the poorer Scandanavian nations at one point in time? Maybe there are other things the government can implement that are taken from those kinds of countries who were really poor and not as educated and now are doing pretty good with all that?

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