ESL helps parents raise their son |

ESL helps parents raise their son

Teri Vance

“Para mi hijo.”

It means “for my son” in Spanish and is the reason Maria Aldana gave for enrolling in an English as a Second Language class through the Even Start program.

Speaking mostly in Spanish, Maria Aldana explained that her desire to provide a better life for her son prompted her to become involved in the Even Start program after hearing about it from a friend.

Even Start is a program funded by state and federal grants through the Carson City School District and is designed to improve the literacy of individual families.

“Our whole purpose is to help end the cycle of intergenerational illiteracy,” said Peggy Sweetland, state coordinator for Even Start, a family literacy program.

The program, which has been in effect since 1994, works in coordination with Western Nevada Community College.

In order to qualify for the program, parents must enroll in one basic adult education class.

Sweetland said that 99 percent of participants choose to enroll in an ESL class.

Aldana has been in the program for about two years and her husband, Javier Aldana, said he has seen positive results.

“My son is learning very well in school,” he said. “My wife helps him a lot with his homework.”

That help has paid off.

Their son, Omar, 5, was named “star of the week” last semester in his kindergarten class at Empire Elementary School.

As “star of the week,” Omar had to fill a poster board with photographs and drawings of things that he liked.

The poster still hangs in his parents’ bedroom.

Even Start works with the families of children up to age seven to prepare them for formal education.

“We want kids to be ready for school,” said Valerie Dockery, grants coordinator for the school district.

As part of the program, Even Start sends a tutor to the Aldana’s house once a week to help Omar in his areas of difficulty as identified by his teacher.

Omar is focusing on the sounds of individual letters and pronunciation of words, things that his parents would not be able to help him with.

“We don’t know how to pronounce the words well enough to be able to teach him,” said Javier Aldana.

Maria Aldana said Omar is learning English very rapidly. Omar said the reason he wanted to learn English was to “be able to talk to my teacher.”

Maria Aldana attends a two-hour ESL class twice a week at Empire Elementary School. She said that she enjoys the classes and has learned a lot but it can still be difficult.

“When I want to speak English, I know what I want to say in my mind but sometimes my tongue doesn’t work,” she said.

Javier Aldana took an intensive English course while they lived in California and has more of an opportunity to practice it because he works with English-speaking people.

Although they both stressed the importance of their son learning English, they said they want him to retain his Spanish as well.

“It’s good that he knows both languages,” said Javier Aldana.

Other requirements of the program include a series of 10 instructional parenting videos, early childhood education and improved relationships between parents and children.

Parents and children are tested before parents enroll in the program and once again at the end. Sweetland said the results are notable.

“We have seen significant growth in parents as well as children,” Sweetland said.

“Parents who stick with the program improve their skills and are more secure in the English-speaking world in which they live,” Sweetland said.

Aldana said the program has taught her how to teach her son.

“Sometimes you want to help them but they get bored,” she said. “They (Even Start) show you how to play games so that they have fun and learn at the same time.”

Javier and Maria Aldana answered simultaneously that what they wanted for their son was “the best.”

When questioned if they thought that was truly a possibility, Maria Aldana paused, her eyes filled with tears then she answered, “Ojala que si, (I hope so) It’s why we’re doing all of this.”


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