AUSTIN, Texas—For many children clustered around Dr. Lorie Ochoa, it will be the first time to learn of a gaunt knight charging windmills, or worry about a little girl named María, who believes she has lost her mother’s wedding ring in the masa used to make holiday tamales.
But whether it’s Don Quixote or Gary Soto’s Too Many Tamales, hundreds of children and their families will share in the wonder of literacy at Día de los niños/día de los libros 2000. The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., April 29, at the Cepeda Branch Library (7th & Pleasant Valley). It is open free to the public.
“More than 20 Austin community organizations will expand the traditional Latin American cultural tradition of Día de los niños (Day of the Child) into Día de los libros (Day of the books) as part of a growing national effort to celebrate books, reading and family learning,” says Dr. Lorie Ochoa, co-director of the Texas Family Literacy Center.
Lilie Elizondo-Limas, the Center’s research associate, also is requesting that anyone who would like to donate children’s books — in either Spanish or English — call her at (512) 232-6030 for an immediate response. These volumes will be added to the Center’s stockpile and distributed free to needy children and families.
The event emphasizes three main goals: promote the family sharing of books, reading and learning; increase family awareness of community resources that provide shared literacy/learning opportunities for parents and children; and celebrate a cultural Hispanic heritage “as a powerful tool for shared literacy/learning communication within families.”
Elizondo-Limas, who also teaches English as a Second Language classes locally to help Spanish-speaking immigrants obtain either their primary or secondary certificates via a special Mexican Consul’s program — the Instituto Nacional de Educación para Adultos — will be advising residents on how to earn GED high school diplomas.
UT’s Texas Family Literacy Center, El Buen Samaritano, the local Consulate of Mexico, AISD and the Austin Public Library — among others — hope the event’s second year ultimately will help create a statewide model for other Texas communities.
Late last month, the Texas Education Agency introduced a new exam, the Reading Proficiency Tests in English (RPTE), which tested students in grades three through 12 who are considered “limited English proficient” (LEP). More than 555,000 children, from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, were classified LEP this year in Texas, according to TEA figures.
Most education reform experts consider Texas as a leader in school testing accountability, which has been imitated by other competing states. California’s Los Angeles Unified School District, for example, announced last month that a new reading test discovered that about three-fourths of its eighth-graders were reading at the fourth-grade level, along with roughly two-thirds of all sixth- and seventh-graders.
As part of her literacy initiative, Texas First Lady Laura Bush has emphasized statewide networks of resources encouraging family literacy, including the opening of UT Austin’s Texas Family Literacy Center last April. The Center facilitates information sharing among key providers and helps improve family literacy services throughout Texas.
The TFLC, which was created by a startup grant from The Tapestry Foundation of Austin, is housed within the UT-Austin College of Education’s Texas Center for Reading and Language Arts, under the direction of Dr. Sharon Vaughn.