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Using visual learning & history to strengthen reading skills

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Using visual learning & history to strengthen reading skills

Identity in Montgomery County, Maryland, is no stranger to afterschool and summer learning. The organization acts as a safe and enriching community for Latino children and their families to receive all the tools they need to be successful in school and in life. This summer, Identity programs are strengthening reading skills with the use of visual storytelling and art.

At the beginning of the program, each child receives a journal, highlighter, and Post-Its to use as they reflect on their daily readings. This summer, they are reading The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya, which addresses family, love, poetry and the issue of gentrification.

After reading together in groups, the children work with Identity staff to reflect on what they have gained from their readings. After discussion, students switch gears and jump right into art projects inspired by their own cultures, further strengthening their reading and artistic skills.

“We like to incorporate reading into everything they do in a creative way. When working on art projects, they are still practicing their comprehension by reading the instructions to complete the art projects. We want to keep them engaged and not limited to silently reading all day,” says Maria Diaz, program manager.

History is another tool used to keep the children inspired to read. They are introduced to the history of pottery from Latin America, then put what they’ve learned into practice by creating their own cups and dishes. Their beautiful creations are accompanied by their personal written stories about their hand-painted bowls.

There is an entire table dedicated to the artwork the children created. Hand-painted bowls and masks are lined neatly across the tables. The masks are rich in various colors and textures, and most are inspired by festivals in El Salvador, where many of the children are from.

“We want them to have something tangible to take home and be proud of,” Maria adds, flipping through examples of each child’s work.

It only took five minutes to see the impact that art, history, and reading had on the children this summer. As they sit in groups discussing the pros and cons of gentrification and share the meanings behind their impressive art projects, it is clear to see that summer programs like Identity are essential to their development and well-being.

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