In the News: Community-based Spanish Course Uses Children's Lit to Discuss Diversity

Author: Oliver Ortega

community-based learning course offered through the Center for Social Concerns by ILS Faculty Fellow Rachel Parroquín, of Romance Languages and Literatures, was recently profiled in The Observer student newspaper of Notre Dame.

As the article notes:

"Students are required to read at least 1,950 minutes of children’s books during the semester, and they spend one class period each week volunteering at a local elementary school.

The official title of the course is “Once Upon A Time: Children’s Literature and Community Connections,” but it is often referred to as the “LIJ” course. LIJ stands for “literatura infantil y juvenil,” spanish for children’s literature.

Students in the course meet twice a week in the classroom to critically study various aspects of spanish[-language] children’s literature, including diversity, representation and educational equity. Then, for an hour each week, they apply what they learn as Spanish reading buddies for students in the two-way immersion (TWI) Spanish and English program at Holy Cross School, an elementary school in northwest South Bend."

Holy Cross Cbl Rachel Parroquin
Students at Holy Cross Catholic School (Rachel Parroquin)

Parroquín became a faculty fellow this academic year. She began teaching the course in 2016. She has experience teaching primary school in Mexico and the U.S., and holds degrees in Spanish and Education from Valparaiso and Loyola University of Chicago.

“I did a lot with children’s literature as an elementary teacher, and it’s something I just love,” she told the Observer. “Doing the LIJ class was a way for me to combine three different things that I really enjoy — Spanish, children’s literature and community-engaged learning.”

The article continues:

"Branden Kohnle, a junior political science and Spanish double major, worked in a childcare center for five years prior to taking the LIJ course last semester. Although a highlight of his job was selecting books for and reading to the children, Kohnle said he had not fully considered the importance of diverse children’s literature before working with his reading buddy at Holy Cross.

One afternoon, Kohnle shared a story called “Los Invisibles” with his reading buddy. The story features a middle-class girl who moves with her family to a lower-income neighborhood after their financial situation changes. Understandably upset at first, the girl eventually embraces and works to brighten her new community.

“The kid I was working with … came from a working-class family, and he was able to connect and talk about his own experiences living in that kind of situation,” Kohnle recalled. “It was cool that he got to see himself represented in the book.”

* Read the full article in the The Observer. Learn about Spanish Community-Based Learning courses in this video.