Education scholar, Dr. Laura Alamillo at Cal State University Fresno, is currently conducting research on Latina mothers that shows that they reading to their children at home in two languages. I work with immigrant, Mexican parents, too, and know that they also work closely and intensely across two languages yet our schools—pre-K included—systematically fail to provide their teachers with the language supports that they need in order to carry out the kind of effective pedagogy that our bilingual children need.
We've had many a community discussion on these things here in Austin, Texas, and our very own bilingual teachers AT ALL LEVELS—pre-K included—voice these concerns with a extreme dearth of curricula, books, and materials that are not only linguistically appropriate for bilingual learners at ALL levels of development, but that once you parse it out, don't even speak to the Mexican or Mexican American experience in the U.S. In my own work, I call this "subtractive schooling." I don't have time to go into the manifold, historic, ideological, and layered reasons why this is so, but want to take the opportunity to share that we are doing something about this.
We started a Saturday Academy called "Academia Cuauhtli" (Eagle Academy)—a language and culture revitalization project—at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center. Students get taught in Spanish a Mexican American Studies / Tejano Studies curriculum in grade 4, targeting three nearby east Austin elementary schools—Metz, Sanchez, and Zavala.
This involves a partnership involving Nuestro Grupo (our community based organization organized by the Texas Center for Education Policy and the Tejano Monument Curriculum Initiative, both at the University of Texas at Austin and the National Latino/a Education Research and Policy Project [NLERAP], its fiscal agent and national nonprofit organization), the Austin Independent School District, the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department and within it, the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center where the Saturday academy takes place.
We have developed curriculum in migration/immigration, civil rights, and local history. We are currently extending this curriculum to indigenous heritage, women, and the cultural arts. Moreover, all that we have developed is available to students district wide—currently in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 11.
Consider liking us on Facebook where you can see video of some instruction there: https://www.facebook.com/AcademiaCuauhtl
Also check us out on our AISD Website: http://www.austinisd.org/academics/cuauhtli
AISD Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Pauline Dow, and so many others have demonstrated incredible leadership in this regard. I am so happy an honored to be a part of this initiative.
Though I am sure the authors of this research study didn't intend this to be so, they nevertheless offer a deficit perspective of what they say Mexican mothers and children presumably do not have, rather than a study conducted from a research lens of what they do have. After all, a way of seeing is also always a way of not seeing.
Just as importantly, these authors also didn't situate their work in a sociopolitical or sociocultural perspective that like us here in Austin recognizes that at the root of our problems as a community as a whole are not an accumulated sum total of deficiencies that we collectively inherit or "possess," but rather a very deep, history of educational neglect, underinvestment, and cultural chauvinism in an otherwise highly alienating, test-driven curriculum where the knowledge of the dominant group is what counts in our state curriculum.
And since knowledge, curriculum, and whose knowledge counts in society entails the reproduction of our commuities' social and political consciousness, our battle lies not in "fixing" Latina/Mexican moms, but rather in other areas as follows to name only a few problem areas:
Taking on the elitest Northeastern book publishers that either construct Southwestern Mexicans as a community that doesn't read [so why invest in them?] or as a "regional minority," making them less reluctant to publish our works;
Libraries and book stores that fail to buy our books or that place the few that they do have in harder-to-reach spaces or that mix them up with Latin American authors as if we have no history or status of our own as U.S. Latino authors in multiple genres of writing;
Universities that do not collect archives on the histories, writings, artifacts, or knowledge of our communities or that leave our neglected archives on life support;
Newspapers and magazines that can't ever seem to find a Latin@ author to recognize in any significant way except for a token few;
Journalists that are totally missing the statewide and national movement that is currently taking place with respect to the advancement of Mexican American Studies (although here is one such story). Despite our numbers, they, too see us as a marginal community on the whole.
Book festivals that exclude our books and that overlook knowledge production by Latinas or Latinos for book awards, our state boards of education that are resistant to secure inclusion of our histories, stories, and ways of knowing as part of what counts—or should count—as knowledge in a world that is increasingly not only diverse, but actually quite brown and is the demographic of destiny.