An Intern's INsight

By Erin Fox

 

"One of the most rewarding parts is seeing the kids make progress on stuff that they were struggling with. Like Roberto*, his reading has drastically improved. Sometimes he'll honestly kind of surprise me with what he can already do, which is quite a bit more than when I first got here.

 

I like seeing the kids and their families at events outside of the after-school program and how excited they are to see me and how much the families appreciate us. Even parents that I haven't actually met yet know my name because the kids have told them, and it's rewarding for me because it just goes to show how much the parents value this opportunity for their kids.

 

For the most part, the parents are not very educated with not a very strong culture of literacy, but here’s a very strong culture of knowing how important school is. A lot of parents want to help their kids learn and see how crucial that is, but they're not actually sure how.

 

Most of the kids are bilingual. There are quite a few who are proficient in both languages (Spanish and English), but not fluent. That's actually a big challenge for a lot of Hispanic kids when they start school, because they haven't fully developed their Spanish. It's not like they go to kindergarten knowing how to read and write in Spanish. They'll start learning English, but they can't fully learn it because they haven't developed those skills in their first language yet.

 

You’ll see a difference in the quality of the bilingual programs at different schools. Like Cameron* is in Spanish bilingual program, but he actually speaks English way better. He’s in a Spanish bilingual program, so he only knows how to read and write in Spanish. So his spoken vocabulary is holding back reading the vocabulary, which is in turn holding back his learning of American vocabulary. That's kind of a common theme for a lot of them, language development issues. It makes starting school and the first few grades pretty difficult for a lot of kids."

*Names have been changed to protect the children’s privacy.