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Bilingual Authors Give El Cajon Student Literacy A Boost

Aired 10/7/11 on KPBS News.

Students at EJE Charter School in El Centro spent yesterday with the writers of books and songs they read and sing every day.

Students at EJE Charter School in El Cajon had never met Alma Flor Ada, Isabel Campoy or Suni Paz. But at assemblies Thursday the students knew their stories and songs by heart. The bilingual authors’ and musician’s work is a regular part of classes at the school, which are taught in Spanish and English.

This is the second year EJE has brought authors to the school, according to Eva Pacheco, the school’s executive director.

“We bring authors to the school for the children to be exposed, for them to think in the future, maybe they can be authors also,” she said.

The school's librarian Tracy Poe has been working to bring the authors and music to the campus for over a year.

"We're very excited and honored to have them at our school," Poe said. "Their books, their music are all part of our literature plans that we use in the library as well as in our classroom."

Campoy and Ada have co-written more than 130 bilingual books.

“Most of our topics are devoted to bringing about the richness of our culture in literature, in art, in historical folklore,” Campoy said. “So, we have a lot of fun, it’s a good profession.”

More than being fun, Campoy said their work supports students learning important skills. She said studies show learning to read, write and speak more than one language fluently leads to life-long benefits.

“A person that is bilingual needs to process information much more quickly, so the agility of thought and the versatility of vocabulary – the end result is that,” she said.

The women also met with parents to discuss the importance of reading to their children in English and Spanish. They are in town to lead a conference on using visual and performing arts in bilingual education.

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