Seventeen people in an Oceano Elementary classroom cracked open a new, green book last Wednesday called “The Shark That Taught Me English.”
Prompted by kindergarten teacher Carolyn Le-Fort, they took turns reading sections of a story written in English and Spanish about a young girl who moves to the U.S. from Mexico with her family and struggles to learn the new language.
The story resonates with the group, as they expand their English vocabulary and practice their conversational skills.
But the gathering isn’t made up of Oceano Elementary students — far from it. They’re parents of students and are part of a new program that aims to instill a routine of reading together as a family, said Oceano Elementary Principal Ron Walton.
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The school has just started a new reading program through educational publishing organization Lectura, based in South Pasadena.
Called “The Latino Family Literacy Project,” the program offers a training workshop for teachers who then work with Latino parents and their children to build a regular family reading routine and strengthen their English-language skills. A side benefit is that the program could prompt more parents to get involved in school activities.
At Oceano Elementary, Le-Fort and first-grade teacher Diana Tappan lead a group of about 17 parents of kindergarteners, first- and second-graders on Wednesday nights for 10 weeks. A similar program with different books is also being held for parents of preschool-aged children.
Together, they serve nearly 50 families at the school.
“No matter how much they (the parents) have to do, they come to learn English,” said parent Elizabeth Rivera, who moved to the area from the Mexican state of Guerrero about five years ago. Two of her four children attend Oceano Elementary, where she heads up an advisory committee at the school representing Latino parents.
Through her 14-year-old daughter, Dulce Serrato, Rivera said she loves the class and enjoys reading the books with her family.
Each week, the parents meet for about two hours. After a half hour or so of vocabulary and conversational speaking exercises, they each receive a book, which they discuss and then take home to share with their families.
They’ve also been given a disposable camera to take photos of their family and create an album.
The first book, “A New Sun,” talks about an immigrant who moved to a new country and found that people all want the same thing: to have hope and make their dreams a reality.
“The first book is simple but it opens the door to a conversation,” Walton said. “Within the family it creates a generation of readers and a family that talks about their own history.”
Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.