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New library developed by USU students benefits Latino children


By Zachary Aedo | April 22, 2017

Two students at Utah State University are excited about the upcoming opening of the new library they developed for a nonprofit in Cache Valley. They are hoping it will increase literacy among Latino children and increase parental engagement in Latino families.

“I wanted to help these kids so that they’ll actually have an equal shot of being at the level of their peers when they go into school,” said RJ Risueno, who studies communication disorders at USU. “That really motivated me.”

Since September in 2016, Risueno and his classmate Kristin Fitzgerald have purchased and obtained books in both Spanish and English through fundraisers, donations and book drives. They acquired more than 2,500 books and developed a library for a preschool run by the nonprofit Centro de la Familia de Utah in Providence. The new library will be available for the students to use when the preschool opens on Wednesday.

“It’s a great experience to be able to serve people,” said Fitzgerald, who also studies communication disorders and deaf education.

Centro de la Familia de Utah runs a couple of Head Start schools, which are federally funded programs promoting literacy to early-childhood students of low-income families.

Nurian Cuellar, the education specialist for Centro de la Familia de Utah, said about 98 percent of the 102 children attending the preschool are Latino.

A majority of Latino toddlers in the United States lag behind whites in preliteracy skills and oral language development according to a UC Berkeley study.

By having access to a library, Risueno said these Latino students will have an enriched vocabulary and will be better prepared for school.

“My long-term goal is to see that parents and children are reading together,” Risueno said. “There are so many benefits that come with reading to your child before they hit kindergarten.”

Cuellar said Hispanic parents have found success in becoming more involved in their child’s education and in improving the child’s literacy through the Head Start program. The new library will be one more advantage for Latino families enrolled in the school, she said.

“We see projects like this as a huge blessing,” Cuellar said. “When you work with grants, you’re very limited on the funds that you have available. I know the children are going to directly benefit from this service project.”

The benefits of children reading books do not only extend into their education, Fitzgerald said. Reading to children can improve the bonding between parents and their children.

“If parents are reading to them,” she said, “that will create that connection between the parents and their kids.”

Risueno said he couldn’t be happier about the new library and the benefits it will bring to Latino children’s literacy skills and their relationship with parents.

“A dream of mine is to serve the Latino community,” Risueno said. “Just to be able to do that has been phenomenal.”