Spanish-language books headed for area schools

Mexican government donating books that ease teaching of English, improve teaching of Spanish

Across South Texas each school day, teachers are faced with bilingual

Either they’re teaching native Spanish speakers to make the transition to English, or trying to make their English-speaking children learn Spanish.

So a national program through the Mexican government to donate Spanish-language text and reference books to area schools and public libraries is a godsend, said Josie Vela, head librarian at the Riviera Independent School District.

With Diez y Seis de Septiembre just around the corner and a school year gearing up with lessons that highlight Hispanic writers and heroes, South Texas schools need as many Spanish-language books as they can get, she said.

“We’re in desperate need,” Vela said.

“When we have the different Mexican holidays, there are class projects.”

Students in Spanish classes check them out to practice their comprehension and fluency, she said.

The books can be used as part of the accelerated reading program.

And for children who come from Mexico, reading books in Spanish can be a comfort that Vela said helps them make a smoother transition to English.

For the last five years, the Mexican government has donated scores of Spanish-language book collections on math, science, geography, arts and Mexican history, said Sergio E. Jacobo, Mexico’s local deputy consul.

At a formal donation ceremony later this month, 150 more book collections, each containing 50 different volumes, will be distributed to some 17 school districts and various public libraries and community organizations, Jacobo said.

“It’s very important for a child to be able to go back and forth between both languages, especially with their language of origin,” he said.

“We have an obligation to help this education system move forward. It’s a help for the districts that have a high percentage of Mexican natives.”

In most of the school districts, the books are set up in the school’s libraries, for teachers to use in special class projects.

Students can check them out for essays and research papers. Some classes may use the science and math books for individual lessons.

At Dawson Elementary in Corpus Christi, where an innovative partial immersion program in Spanish exists, the 100 workbooks allotted there will be used at the second and third grade levels first.

Once those children pass to the school’s upper grades, they will graduate into the tougher lessons found in fourth through sixth grade workbooks, said Principal Linda Kelly.

Teachers will share the books and photocopy their lessons, Kelly said.

“Once they can read in English, they can transpose that skill into Spanish,” Kelly said. “We can teach them to speak both and translate both. They’re great books.”

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