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Joan Becker and 6 of her students.

Vol. 3, No. 2

Spring 2014

Your Source of Information for Staying Connected, the e-magazine of the Michael D. Eisner College of Education

T.A.L.E.S II-Into the Heart of the Community

Developing a Family Literacy Partnership through Storytelling, Bilingualism, and the Arts

By Dr. Shartriya Collier, Department of Elementary Education

Dr. Shartriya Collier at the T.A.L.E.S final celebration with one of the families

Education Associate Professor Dr. Shartriya Collier (left), Department of Elementary Education, T.A.L.E.S final celebration with one of the families, all of whom receive certificates for their participation and a bilingual book as a gift.

A Day in the Life of T.A.L.E.S

"Is it English day or Spanish day?" Serena asks as she swings her ponytails from side to side and her mother trails into the room behind her. "English day," I respond, handing her a snack and materials for the day. They walk over to the table and choose Pelitos by Sandra Cisneros. By now, they know that upon entering each session of T.A.L.E.S (Teaching the Acquisition of Language through English and Storytelling), they will sit and read together. Berta, Serena's mother, must choose one of the Parent Tips of the Day—Consejos del Dia—to practice reading with her child. "Berta," I say to Serena's mother, "¿Qué estrategia se va a utilizar?" "We are going to try a Book Walk," responds Serena, before Berta can speak. Once all of the parents have arrived, I grab my storytelling props and begin our new story, Abuela. Story Circle usually includes a story using drama, read-alouds, interactive reading, or improvisation. As we read, I model a new Tip of the Day. Afterwards, the parents and their children complete an art-writing activity related to the story. Most of the stories emphasize family and cultural pride. Finally, at the end of each session, parents read with their children and practice the Tip of the Day.

Children sitting on the floor, listening to a story.

Every session of T.A.L.E.S includes storytelling time. Above, children are participating in the interactive reading of Zulema the Witch Owl. Students then developed masks related to the story for our Day of the Dead/Halloween celebration.

Everyone Has Tales to Tell

The T.A.L.E.S Program was an 8-week intergenerational literacy development program at Carlos Santana Arts Academy. The program was designed to encourage acquisition of language through the use of storytelling and narratives for immigrant families. Researchers in the field of second language acquisition argue that the use of cultural narratives for literacy instruction provides a space for English language learners to improve fluency in not only speaking, but also, when structured properly, in reading, writing, and listening. This partnership, Teaching the Acquisition of Language through English and Storytelling (T.A.L.E.S) II: Into the Heart of the Community sought to:

  1. Increase parental involvement in the teaching of English language learners.
  2. Increase the literacy levels of parents and children in the program.
  3. Integrate literacy development through storytelling and drama in an authentic way.

Developing Partnerships at Carlos Santana

When you enter Carlos Santana Arts Academy, you immediately notice that it's a new facility. The library is plentifully stocked with books, and faculty, students, and staff appear cohesive, excited, and ready to learn. Moreover, the school's unique focus on arts integration makes it literally "a diamond in the rough." Nonetheless, as with many of the schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Carlos Santana has its challenges. Approximately 99% of the student population are identified as socioeconomically disadvantaged. Additionally, 77% are English language learners and 8% are identified as students with disabilities. While the school has made great progress with supporting English learners, they need additional support. Some of the challenges faced by the school are to increase parent literacy, support, and involvement.

University-School Dialogue Builds Bridges

Various factors were essential to the successful design of this program. Open communication with the principal prior to program implementation was key. The first task was meeting with the principal in order to discover her vision for the school and how CSUN could support this vision. We discussed several possible partnership options, but we both agreed that parent support was paramount.

After our initial meeting, we revisited the T.A.L.E.S curriculum to determine calendar dates. Once the curriculum was finalized, we worked with the principal to determine what materials were needed. Fortunately, the school purchased all of the books on the recommended bilingual booklist. We specifically wanted bilingual books to help reinforce skills in both languages. Because we integrated iPads, the principal made her technology staff available to us. The CSUN team also purchased several incentives such as stickers and snacks as rewards for families. The partnership would not have been possible without the mutual investment of both parties. Several recommendations are given below for beginning and nurturing a school partnership.

Tips for Developing Family Literacy Partnerships

  • Meet with the administrator as often a possible in person and via email.
  • Introduce yourself to the Parent Center Coordinators to familiarize yourself with the services currently available at the school and where there are gaps in services.
  • Provide your partner with a well-developed outline of the project's goals, dates, curriculum, and materials.
  • Develop a Parent Letter of Commitment for the program.
  • Provide incentives to encourage continued participation.
  • Assess the beginning, middle, and end of the program and discuss ways of continuing the partnership over time.

Most importantly, have fun! Parents, children, and administrators appreciate our efforts when they observe our genuine interest in their children's success.

Special thanks to principal Leah Bass-Baylis and the staff at Carlos Santana Arts Academy for their support; moreover, I am grateful to Marilyn Joshua-Williams for volunteering her time and energy to the T.A.L.E.S Program and Judith Jacobo, my teaching assistant, for her insights and for developing the T.A.L.E.S video.

Watch the T.A.L.E.S Program Videos

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