When Pulaski County Schools placed netbooks into the homes of its migrant students, the intent was not only to assist its students with Web-based reading programs, but also to help parents learn.
"We would have our meetings in the evenings, our No. 1 request (from parents) was, I want to learn more English," said Mardi Montgomery, Pulaski’s director of Next-Generation Programs.
Through a translator, Elvia Flores said her son Israel Zanahua, a sixth-grader, helps her with the program.
"I learned a lot of words and when people speak to me, I understand more but I don’t feel comfortable speaking back," Flores said. "I know my son learned a lot; it helped him a lot.
"When he was doing his Lexia (reading program), he would tell me the things it was asking him to do and it gave me more of an idea of what he was doing," she added. "Sometimes when I was doing mine, I would be doing it out loud and he would come tell me, ‘No, that’s not the way,’ and explain to me how to do it correctly."
Ignacia Barradas, the mother of Lilli and Dennysses, said the program has improved her English and given her the confidence to, for example, order food or medicine.
Israel Zanahua and his mom, Elvia Flores, work on a netbook together.
Both Flores and Barradas are originally from Veracruz, Mexico.
Diego Ramirez, a sixth-grader at Northern Middle School, said his mom has learned more English by working with him on the program.
"Whenever I went to go do it, my mom would usually come over just to see what I was doing," Ramirez said. "Sometimes she’d stand there more than 10 minutes just to watch and she’d actually learn some stuff off of it. She learned a little bit of English."
That collaboration was a goal of the program, according to Shawn Grant, a math teacher at Northern Middle School and a summer migrant tutor.
"We strive to help the kids but we want to help the families as a whole," he said. "It’s our job to help all migrant families achieve the best possible."
"(The parents are) always saying, ‘In Mexico, my kids would’ve never had these opportunities. In Mexico, I never had these opportunities,’" added Maria Pyles, an English language learner instructor and interpreter in Pulaski County Schools.
Tina Purcell, a recruiter for the district’s migrant program, said sometimes it takes a little convincing to get the families in the program, but "once we explain to them what the program is all about, that we just want to help – most of the time they’re pretty willing and interested."
Montgomery noted that the migrant program has three or four workshops for parents during the school year. Students who have done very well in the reading programs also are recognized during the workshops.
"I think that that recognition is very important, but I also think that more importantly that it’s about the whole family and the whole child," Montgomery said. "And that’s what we’ve done and that’s what KDE and the federal government want us to do."
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