Carmen: English Unites Us

by Literacy Partners

Clock Icon 5 minute read

Health care. Insurance. Jobs. Education. 

Carmen left Ecuador for the United States with the hope of being able to support her family, as well as send help back home. She soon discovered, though, that she was being barred from job opportunities simply because she didn’t speak English. Instead of finding a better life for her children, Carmen found hiring discrimination and low salaries.

Then, her friends introduced her to Literacy Partners. She joined without hesitation, knowing that speaking the native language would allow her to climb the ladder of success and make a better life for her little ones. Carmen never imagined the support and family system she would find in both her classmates and her teacher, Sandra Cespedes.

Before Literacy Partners, Carmen’s biggest struggle was helping her eight-year-old son, Nuriel, with his homework. Determined to find the answers, she would even scour the library, humbly asking complete strangers for help. But this wasn’t an easy task. Carmen was nervous to speak English out loud, and embarrassed at her obvious inabilities.

Thanks to Literacy Partners, all the freedoms she knew New York to be famous for, are now available to her. She talks with both Nuriel and her five-year-old daughter, Jacquelyn, in English, and reinforces her knowledge of questioning, using words like ‘why’ and ‘where’, in an effort to understand her children better. This not only helps Carmen to strengthen her English skills, but it has strengthened her relationships with both Nuriel and Jacqueline. “We help each other,” she says, mentioning how her son helps her study. “We don’t seek outside help - we work together to understand.” They work together, and learn together.

“Mommy, you have to read with us!” Nuriel and Jacquelyn call out before bed. Reading has become a huge part of Carmen’s life, and she loves sharing that with her children. While Jacquelyn hasn’t yet started to read herself, the family’s reading ritual has fed her imagination and storytelling abilities. She even pretends she’s reading as she looks at the pictures in her books!

Nuriel’s studies have also seen improvements since Carmen began her journey with Literacy Partners. Not only have his grades exceeded those of before, but he’s become more vocal with Carmen about his successes and shortcomings. Whereas before he would fail to tell her his test scores, Carmen says, “Now, he comes to me and is excited to share his grades with me - Mommy, I got a 100! I got an 85!” They then spend time together, going over his homework and making corrections.

Both Nuriel’s and Jacquelyn’s continued growth have inspired Carmen, who says, “I want to learn English really well. My children encourage me to use my English and grow more confident. I want to continue teaching my children because they are my life.”

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