Created in 2011, the Read Conmigo program in the United States was implemented in an effort to promote reading in both English and Spanish across the United States, where an estimated 37 million Spanish-speaking citizens reside.
The program boasts a website that offers a nationwide distribution of books, online games and apps written in both English and Spanish, all at no cost. The site is meant to provide inspiration for parents and teachers to read to children between the ages of preschool and 5th grade, and also to offer material meant to increase reading skills in both languages.
“A number of studies show that students who read outside of their regular school activities will do better academically, so our emphasis is on educating parents to read to their children so that later they’ll read for themselves,” campaign spokeswoman Patricia Vila said.
Since its creation as part of Infinity Insurance’s social responsibility program, “read conmigo” has distributed over 800,000 books and e-books across the country.
While the program is available across the country, its main focus is in California, Florida and Texas, the three states with the largest Latino populations. Because of this, Vila said the need to be bilingual in those states is the highest.
Data from the Pew Research Center reports that of the 36% Americans who are bilingual, 25% speak more English, while 38% speak Spanish more.
“In states that are more Hispanic, the importance of being bilingual is well understood, but the campaign has shown us that in other states the advantages of speaking more than just one language are starting to be appreciated, not just the cultural advantages but the economic ones as well,” Vila said.
Meanwhile, the Annie E. Casey foundation reports that 85% of Hispanic fourth graders have reading skills below the national average. The problem worsens later on, as those students become four times more likely to drop out of high school.
Jessica Albert for WCTI 12 reports that similar programs are offered in schools such as for kindergarteners in Onslow County, North Carolina, who are enrolled in the district’s Spanish Language Immersion Program, which teaches all of the core subjects in Spanish. “I think it’s a great opportunity for them to learn a second language,” Stateside Elementary SPLASH teacher Liceth Aguada said.
The idea is especially prevalent in the Miami-Dade school district in Florida, where school officials are reconsidering how they teach their students to read and write in Spanish. Some language experts argue that immigrants in the area are becoming increasingly assimilated.
“People believe that Spanish is inevitable here, but it’s really not,” said Phillip Carter, a sociolinguist at Florida International University. “The Spanish that we hear around town is mostly spoken by immigrants, not their children or grandchildren.”
In order to deal with the increase in parent demand, the district has begun to move to a more intense level of instruction, with language experts believing that immersive instruction is the best way for students to pick up an additional language.
“The more intense your program, the more time you spend in the target language, the more proficient” students become, said Marty Abbott, executive director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.