Here is a true story
Isabel* is a cute little 5 year old girl who loves books and is looking forward to starting Kindergarten this year. Her parents are from Mexico and do not speak much English. Neither of Isabel's parents were able to attend school in the rural Mexico town were they grew up. Isabel's mom does not even know how to read. I started giving Isabel's mother books for her to read to Isabel when I first started seeing her when she was 2 years old. Isabel's mom was concerned that she couldn't read these simple picture books. I explained that the important thing was for Isabel to develop a love of books -- her mom could look at the pictures with her and talk about the story even if she couldn't read all of the words. That first book that I gave to Isabel was the only book that her family owned except a bible. When Isabel came back to see me for her next appointment, she brought along the then "well-loved" book she and her mother had obviously read together many times. I gave her a new book at that visit and encouraged her mother to visit the local library. Isabel's mother had never heard of such a thing! A place where they loan you books? For free? Isabel's mother did visit the library, and continued to "read" to her daughter. Two years later, I learned she had joined an English as a Second Language class and was learning to read. I gave her a bilingual book so that she and Isabel could practice a few English words. When I saw Isabel recently for her pre-school physical, she and her mother greeted me with "Hello," "Thank you" and a few other English phrases they had picked up. Isabel's mother was so proud of her daughter and beamed encouragement as Isabel named three colors, counted to ten and said some of her ABC's in English. I gave her a new easy reader book in English, so Isabel could begin to learn to read by herself.
I truly believe that giving books to immigrant parents and helping them to establish the love of reading in their children will help these kids to enter school better prepared to learn.
Submitted by:Dr. Kris McVaeOneWorld Community Health Center