Throughout my 19 years of teaching at my rural, high-poverty secondary school, I have witnessed our student body go from less than 5% Hispanic to over 35% Hispanic (grades 7-12). Over the years, I have done my best to provide opportunities for Heritage Language students in my regular Spanish classes, but this year, I am teaching a dedicated class for Heritage Language learners for the second time in my career.
These Heritage Language students come from a wide range of backgrounds: from Puerto Rican students displaced after Hurricane Maria to second-generation Mexican-American students to bicultural kids who are more comfortable using English than Spanish.
The common threads among them are pride, identity and eagerness to develop their Spanish skills. My students are so proud of their improved skills because they are able to communicate better with their family members in Spanish. Seeing the students excited about reading in Spanish and developing a love for reading is rewarding.
Based on student interests and input, I have selected high-interest books from a variety of genres at a variety of levels. Real-life stories have huge appeal for many of my Heritage students, so books like “Cuentos de Buenas Noches para Niñas Rebeldes” (a collection of biographies about notable women) and “Voces Sin Fronteras (a collection of stories by young immigrants) are important to add to my classroom library. Also, the Orca Spanish Soundings Collection includes 24 compelling stories about teenagers written using comprehensible language.
My Heritage Language students are reading every day in class as the primary way of increasing their literacy in Spanish.
As these students grow their literacy skills and reading proficiency, it’s important to provide them with texts they are interested in reading. The books the students have selected will be used every day during our reading time and will provide countless opportunities for reflection, discussion and enjoyment.
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