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Meeting students half-way: Dignifying the use of Spanish in the development of Latino student literacy

21 July 1994


This study examines the effects of Spanish language use in instruction on the development of Latino high school student literacy. The literature review illuminates the influence that second language acquisition has on the development of reading and writing. The conceptual framework is provided by a bilingual education paradigm. Fifteen literacy histories were collected in the form of tape-recorded interviews and review of accumulative file data. Both Latino high school student and bilingual teacher perceptions regarding the effects of Spanish language USe and attainment of literacy were recorded. Subjects were asked to remember their Spanish literac'y experiences and levels of mastery, then their years of attempting to learn to speak, read, and write in English. Perceptions of the years using English-only (L2) instruction were compared with perceptions of progress in reading and writing due to any Spanish (LI) support. Influences of Krashen's ·Negative Affective Filters· (1981) from English-only instruction on literacy were noted, as well as positive influences of Spanish instruction on motivation, self-esteem, and pride in culture. All subjects found that Spanish (Ll) support improved their understanding of English and provided access to the curriculum. One aim of the narrative descriptions is heightened awareness and understanding of the factors influencing the struggle to attain literacy experienced by Latinos. It was found that teacher empathy, training in second language acquisition, language development processes, multicultural awareness and appreciation of diversity, and willingness to learn another language for effective bilingual instruction and overall student academic achievement should be encouraged.


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