Regional Partnership Launches Early Spanish Literacy Program in Central Oregon

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(Juntos students and teacher | Photo courtesy of High Desert Education Service District)

Juntos Aprendemos, a Spanish language program focused on preparing Latinx children and families for Kindergarten, launched in two elementary schools in Deschutes County last week. The program equips three- to five-year-old Spanish-speaking students and their parents with the early literacy and school readiness skills needed to overcome barriers facing Spanish-speaking children in the region.

“When children start kindergarten ready to learn, they are more successful at every grade level, they are more likely to graduate from high school and they are more likely to explore careers and college as young adults,” said Kinsey Martin, dual immersion program director for Bend-La Pine Schools. “And when we involve parents as well, student success skyrockets. That’s why the program is called Juntos Aprendemos which means ‘Together We Learn’ in English.”

Juntos Aprendemos is designed to:

  • Increase early numeracy and literacy skills in Spanish;
  • Foster a love of books and reading;
  • Help young students develop social skills and appropriate classroom behavior;
  • Embrace Latino culture and heritage through stories, songs, rhymes, and languages; and
  • Partner with parents to strengthen communication and advocacy skills and their knowledge of how to navigate the U.S. educational system.

The program was brought to Central Oregon by the Latinx Success Initiative, a cross-sector group of 60+ stakeholders who have been working together for the last five years to ensure Latinx students in Central Oregon are thriving. The partnership is facilitated by Better Together, and includes six school districts, local libraries, COCC, OSU-Cascades, OSU-Open Campus, and multiple organizations who serve Latinx students and families in Central Oregon.

“Our hope it to prepare every Latino child to succeed in kindergarten and to empower Latino parents as their children’s first teachers and advocates,” explained Ruth Jones, coordinator of Oregon State University’s Central Oregon Juntos program.

“We know that when children are strong in their first language, they have a higher likelihood of learning and retaining English once they enter school. That is exactly what this program aims to do, while also making space for parents in their role as first teacher and ensuring they feel safe and welcome in our schools,” said Jones’ co-facilitator Christy Walker, coordinator of Central Oregon Community College’s ¡AVANZA!, Latinx College Preparation Program.

According to Walker, The Latino Network has been a critical partner in supporting the launch of the program in Central Oregon with funding  from Collins Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation, and the Central Oregon Health Council.

“We have an amazing network investing in Central Oregon’s Latinx children and communities,” added Walker.”

Juntos Aprendemos originated in 1999 in Multnomah County with a group of Latina moms and community leaders starting with only three families in one school. Today the program is innovative and growing under the Latino network with its own curriculum of 30 week classes and workshops where families gather, prepare, share their culture and patiently wait for their children’s academic success as future leaders in our community.

Latinx students ages three to five years and their parents are invited into their future elementary schools one day a week to practice Spanish literacy in preparation for success in Kindergarten. The goal is to ultimately reduce the stark gaps that exist in third grade literacy between Latinx students and their peers. While 58 percent of all students in the region meet or exceed literacy standards in third grade, only 36 percent of Latinx students do.

“Latino parents are deeply interested in supporting their child’s education and this program provides them with the right tools as well as leadership skills,” said Gabriela Hernandez-Peden, Juntos Aprendemos program coordinator. “During the Juntos Aprendemos sessions we give parents a safe space to express themselves in a setting that respects and embraces their cultures and life experiences. Given this environment, parents feel more confident to use their voices to advocate for their children’s needs and education.”

According to Hernandez-Peden, Juntos Aprendemos would not be happening without the deep investment of time and energy the Latinx Success Initiative partners invest in working together to ensure access to education, resources and information for Latinx families.

Catherine Halliwell-Templin • 541-306-0176  catherine.halliwell-templin@hdesd.org

 

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