Book club helps immigrant mothers find joy in reading and support their kids’ education

by Daniela Gerson

From: The L.A. Times

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(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Mria Onate had not read a book until her son started high school.

Her illiterate parents ended her schooling when she was 15, informing her that she had to get ready for marriage and work to help support the family in their rancho in Puebla, Mexico.

More than two decades later, she was shocked when the parent center coordinators at her son’s new high school, Bravo Medical Magnet, suggested she join a book club. She was there for her child’s education. She thought it was too late for her own.

“I hated to read,” Onate, 44, said in Spanish. “I read in elementary school, but I never read on my own.”

On a recent morning, however, the mother of two was among the most outspoken of 15 Latina women energetically discussing a 600-page novel in a basement classroom at Bravo.

Twice a month the school’s club de literatura meets as a way to encourage immigrant parents to become more involved in their children’s education.

“I’ve seen it change parents,” said Bravo Principal Maria Torres-Flores, who founded the club. “They now enjoy reading, and see it is something important for the kids — it’s not just, ‘You’re wasting time because you don’t want to do chores.’ ”

The women gathered to discuss the Mexican American saga “Rain of Gold,” by Victor Villaseñor.

Torres-Flores was barely able to get a word in as the women’s ideas flowed.

The bell rang, with announcements for students about opportunities at the USC biomedical lab and a request to be nice to counselors. The club members kept talking over the voice on the loudspeaker — dissecting how the author depicted mothers, comparing memories of courting rituals in their hometowns to those in the book and sharing the lessons they learned on how to talk with their children about sex.

“Rain of Gold” will soon be added to a list on the wall of more than a dozen completed books. Each holds a different lesson, notes club member Nereyda Arenas:

“Don Quixote” showed them “wisdom through his words, his advice, his poems.”

“Steve Jobs” “was a little difficult but also a fascinating glimpse into the life of this man that had changed the lives of so many people with his technology.”

And Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl” offered an example of the “strength of the spirit” — and for some women a symbol that even though many could not travel freely back to Mexico they were relatively free in the United States. Read Rest of Article Here


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