Extension: Emergent Bilingual Learners Engaging in Critical Discussions
Bilingual books such as La mariposa by Francisco Jiménez (1998) and In My Family/En mi familia by Carmen Lomas Garza (1996) prompted thoughtful discussions from Latino/a children in a second-grade classroom where Julia, the teacher, and myself collaborated to organize literature discussions for the children. To introduce the book In My Family/En mi familia, Julia read the author’s note at the beginning of the story. It mentions how Garza was punished for speaking Spanish at school, and says she wrote the book so Mexican Americans could feel proud of their heritage. Julia asked the students what they thought about the author’s note. Mario was the first one to respond, and did so with an intertextual connection to the book La mariposa. The conversation occurred in Spanish:
Another child, Amaury, commented that he knew how Francisco, the main character in La mariposa, felt, because, in his opinion, Francisco “couldn’t speak in English [because he didn’t know English] and he couldn’t speak in Spanish, so he couldn’t speak at all.” In this discussion the children were not only learning about reading, including gaining insights into the characters’ feelings and making connections to other books, but also developing awareness of a situation that is too close to many Latino children, one of linguistic discrimination. They began to share their own stories about being forbidden from using Spanish, such as when Dayanara talked about her cousin: “My cousin, we need to hide from her too so I can speak in Spanish because if she hears me speaking Spanish she’ll go tell her mom and her mom won’t let her play with me anymore.” We examined those experiences and the children developed a sense of connection to the authors and to each other. Naming and evaluating such experiences is an important element in the process of experiencing a liberatory education (Freire, 1970).