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A Family That Listens Together Learns Together

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Family That Listens Together Learns Together

Edwin stands in the middle of her children clustered around him.

This is a story about love. The love of parents for their child. The love of teachers for their students. And the love of a child for his parents.

Edwin is a 4th grader at Thomson Elementary School. His parents are from Mexico and study English at a community center by day and work in restaurant kitchens by night. They came to America, like so many others, to give their children a chance to live a future they never dared to dream for themselves.

Edwin and his older sister, Anai, were born in United States, where dreams are made.

“I want them to be fluent in English. I want them to do work that’s better than my work. If they could attend college, that would be fantastic,” said Edwin’s mother, Ms. Lopez, through a translator.

“If they went to college we would feel like peacocks.” Edwin’s father, Mr. Marcelo, proclaimed. “We would be so proud!”

First step—learning English. A year ago, despite being an English Language Learner, Edwin could not get through a book. This distressed his parents, who knew that grasping the language was the foundation of his education but could not help him learn it at home.

Allison Phillips, Edwin’s 3rd grade teacher, noticed Edwin’s struggles too.

“I knew he and other students were not exposed to English at home. So I decided to start sending a new book home each week, with a recording of my voice reading that book and a list of words in an MP3 player. I also included a log, which we still use today,” she said.

She and two other teachers, Stacy Tedesco and Jennifer I Akujuo-Famuidye, worked together to form “Listening for Literacy,” a simple program in which they preloaded MP3 players with lessons and readings to send home with students to practice after school.

They didn’t, however, anticipate that Listening for Literacy would become a daily family tradition.

“Dad is also learning English so he thought we could do it as a family. He’s always working, so he doesn’t always have time to learn. This is a good way for him to practice. We’ll put it in a speaker and listen together and have fun. Sometimes the kids will say, ‘Dad! That’s not the right pronunciation!’ ” Ms. Lopez, laughed.

And now? Edwin can read books in English.

His parents are greatly relieved and very grateful. You can hear the hope in their voices.

“I went through many things in my life… I grew up in a small town in Mexico, and we didn’t have much money. Some days, I went to school without food…. Sometimes, without shoes.” Ms. Lopez begins tearing up.

“I don’t want that for my kids,” she said. “And that’s all I can say about that.”

That’s the past. Now they only think of their future.

“He used to be afraid of coming to school,” Ms. Lopez pointed to her husband. “He was afraid because he didn’t know how to speak English. But I told him to insist on coming and ask questions if he needed to. He found the teachers were helpful; some spoke Spanish. And now he is not afraid,” she said. She smiled. “I’m not afraid either.”

Ms. Phillips and the other teachers continue to use Listening for Literacy to boost English skills in their students, and Edwin continues to improve. In fact, he already has his goal in mind.

Said his mother: “One day, Edwin said to me, ‘Mom, I’m going to give it all I have. I’m going to do everything I can. And when I grow up, I’m going to be an engineer and build you a beautiful house.’ ”