Aaaargh, again. (Program enlists Santa Ana parents as 'first teachers')

Aurolyn Luykx aurolynluykx at
Fri Sep 10 19:39:43 UTC 2004

Is anyone else out there suspicious of articles that
cite that old study about low-income parents speaking
on average 300 fewer words per hour to their children?
(Could it be because they spend more time away from
their children WORKING long hours at lousy jobs??!)
Or the notion that low-income folks and/or non-readers
are incapable of abstract thought?
Maybe we need a program whereby linguists go into the
homes of journalists to educate THEM.
Aurolyn Luykx

--- "Harold F. Schiffman"
<haroldfs at> wrote:

> Language Series Speaks to Families
> Program enlists Santa Ana parents as 'first
> teachers' to help their
> children develop skills.
> By Joel Rubin
> Times Staff Writer
> September 6, 2004
> As he has done twice a week for months, 3-year-old
> David Damasio nestled
> himself between his mother and Ines Victor on the
> family couch in a
> cramped Santa Ana apartment. Victor opened a
> children's book and began
> reading in Spanish to the wide-eyed boy, pausing
> frequently to gently
> pepper him with questions about the story line.
> "Rojo, gris!"  red, gray
> David said in his native tongue, pointing to colored
> hats on the page.
> Throughout, Victor kept an eye on Sonia, David's
> mother, to ensure she was
> paying attention. She pressed the quiet woman to
> mimic her and ask David
> questions. In coming years, when David enters Santa
> Ana's public schools,
> he probably will be taught entirely in English. To
> prepare him for that
> day, he and his mother are working with Victor as
> part of an unusual
> outreach program rooted in a city with one of the
> country's most
> concentrated Latino immigrant populations.
> Started four years ago by UC Irvine cognitive
> scientist Virginia Mann,
> HABLA helps impoverished Latino immigrant parents
> who often don't know how
> to build their young children's language skills.
> "Parents are the first
> teachers, but a lot of these parents don't know what
> to do," Mann said.
> "We know these early years are when children start
> to learn languages, and
> if Spanish is the only language you are able to
> teach them in, then that
> is what you have to do. If a child has language
> skills in Spanish, it will
> translate into English."
> HABLA (Home-based Activities Building Language
> Acquisition) serves about
> 250 families nearly all immigrants from Mexico with
> children between 2 and
> 4. There are no firmly defined eligibility
> requirements, but Mann and her
> staff consider only parents with little education
> and low incomes. The
> mean income for HABLA families is $16,000, and
> parents typically have
> eight or fewer years of schooling and little command
> of English. Home
> visitors like Victor work with families over two
> six-month sessions.
> They bring a Spanish-language book or a toy to each
> half-hour lesson,
> which is used as the day's learning tool and then
> given to the family.
> Through reading and play, the home visitors
> demonstrate to parents how to
> engage their children in the freewheeling
> conversations that help develop
> a child's vocabulary and language skills.
> Mann cited research that shows that economically
> disadvantaged parents
> speak about 300 fewer words each hour to their
> children than more affluent
> parents do. "There is a vacuum of language, a real
> loss of words." And
> while early-intervention reading programs similar to
> HABLA have existed in
> English for years, state education officials said
> Mann's program was one
> of only a few in California conducted in Spanish and
> that offered home
> visits.
> Mann and other child development experts said
> research has made clear that
> young children who build a foundation of skills in
> their native language
> are able to learn a second language more quickly.
> "These children will
> learn English," said Linda Espinoza, a professor at
> the University of
> Missouri who studies early language development.
> "The question is, will
> they have the opportunity early on to expand their
> vocabulary and to learn
> to think abstractly?"
> In Latino immigrant homes, the answer is often no.
> Espinoza and Harry
> Pachon, a professor of public policy at USC, said
> undereducated parents
> whose own parents did not read to them when they
> were young typically do
> not know how to develop their children's language
> skills. The result, Mann
> said, are one-way lines of communication in which
> parents often issue
> orders and ask questions that require a yes-or-no
> response.
> "I didn't know how to teach my son," said Victor,
> who participated in
> HABLA before she became a home visitor. "But I
> didn't want the same thing
> to happen to him that happened to me  the first book
> that was ever read to
> me was after I started school."
> Some parents are also reluctant to speak Spanish to
> their children out of
> fear that it will retard their learning of English.
> Mary Baker, principal
> of Madison Elementary School in Santa Ana, said that
> when a new class of
> kindergartners arrives, her teachers can quickly
> tell which children do
> not have skills in either language. "They often
> don't even know their
> names," she said. "We call them 'non-nons,' "
> because they are non-English
> and non-Spanish speakers.
> Such will not be the case for David Damasio. When
> they leave their
> apartment, his mother said, they often discuss
> objects or places that he
> recognizes from books. In similar scenarios with her
> older daughter, Sonia
> Damasio said, there was silence.
> As her son rambled excitedly in Spanish, she
> repressed a chuckle and shook
> her head wearily. "He talks so much," she said.

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