ABOUT THE PROFESSOR
Patrick D. Herrera taught Spanish at high school and community colleges. He acquired the TESOL/Applied Linguistics degree and has taught English language acquisition for the last 20 years. He began active, classroom research, which became a curriculum for graduate teacher training courses at several universities. The research also evolved into a specialized curriculum that targeted disadvantaged Latino communities. Many of these communities have the problem of low primary language literacy, and illiteracy. Parents and children have a need to learn English, but need highly specialized curriculum and training.
Currently, these programs are being implemented in Orange County, California, and are showing rapid growth. The goal is to make these programs available to other communities, giving adults the opportunity to learn English, and giving children an opportunity to succeed in school.
- The Heartland Institute, February 9, 2013: New English Speakers Need Phonics, Syntax
- The Heartland Institute, July 6, 2013: Why Do So Many Children Struggle to Read?
- Orange County Register, September 24, 2013: Literacy Program Taking Off in Westside Costa Mesa
ACHIEVING LITERACY: SUPPORT FOR THE STRUGGLING READER
Achieving Literacy is not a standard textbook. It is not a chapter-by-chapter, scope-and-sequence reading program. It is a structured tutorial method that addresses the skills needed to read fluently and to understand what is being read. A reader who is hesitating with one or more of these skills will not have comprehension of the text. This method offers specific guidance for teachers, instructors, tutors and parents. It also provides affordable learning materials for students, which can be used independently or alongside mandated curriculum to enhance student achievement.
The objective is to place children from disadvantaged communities on the path to reading with comprehension. In spite of existing support programs, there exists no clear example of success. All areas of the curriculum are affected if the reading skill is not at grade level. Thus, the concern is also about low performance in math and science.
READING READINESS BEGINS AT HOME
The basic skills that lead to literacy are normally formed during the ages of 3, 4 and 5. The foundation for reading is thus initially created by the home environment. Children begin to master the sounds of the language through conversations with parents. They also begin to create the ability to understand the relationship of sounds to written letters on a page. It is accomplished with educational games and reading activities with children.
PHONICS AND VOCABULARY
The arrangement of letters forms words, then phrases and sentences. With this skill they can expand vocabulary. Vocabulary increases with an awareness of the environment. It begins with things that are visualized. It then develops to concepts that aren’t visualized, but must be understood. Understanding concepts leads to the higher levels of thinking.
THINKING IN ENGLISH
Thinking expands as the learner masters syntax, or the arrangement of words in a sentence. This is an additional challenge for second language learners. Their thought process has a different arrangement of words, which inhibits listening and reading comprehension.
OVERCOMING THE LANGUAGE GAP
A low level of literacy in the home can inhibit success as children begin school. First graders who only communicate in their own language enter first grade and are given a book in English, which they can’t read. Thus, begins the achievement gap. Early elementary reading curricula presume “reading readiness.” Learners who aren’t ready need skills development, which can be accomplished with a support program.
SIMPLICITY, A KEY TO TEACHING AND LEARNING
The problem is complex, but the steps to a solution are not. The learning process can be simplified so that each step proceeds at a comfortable pace for the learner and the teacher. The objectives and assessments are clearly defined and simple to accomplish. Achieving Literacy is a new opportunity for needy learners.