With the passing of Proposition 58, the landscape changed for English Learners. Today, across California, bilingual programs are expanding and with this, the opportunity for English Learners to become fully bilingual and biliterate.
This is where the Alas y Voz (Wings and Voice) campaign comes in. The campaign aims to raise awareness among parents of English Learners about the benefits of biliteracy, and the importance of students learning in English and their home language at school.
We share research about the benefits of biliteracy that is particularly meaningful to immigrant parents. We center our messaging on how being able to read and write in English and in their home language improves their children's academic achievement and expands their opportunities.
Despite understanding the benefits of bilingualism, many parents of English Learners don't enroll their children in bilingual programs, often because they fear they will become confused or fall behind while learning English.
After all, for the past 20 years, many have heard that English-only programs are the best for their children.
This idea, heard both in media and in community settings, was accepted by parents of English Learners understanding that it was not essential for their children to become fully biliterate or to enroll their children in bilingual programs.
What both media and parents missed was the reality of language loss. The focus on bilingualism (understood widely as speaking the language) hides how important biliteracy is to preserving a home language.
Teaching children to read and write at home is easier said than done. Often, when English Learners enter pre-school or school settings, they start resisting speaking their home language, and eventually lose it. In addition to the lost opportunities in their future, some become unable to communicate with family members and eventually lose their connection to their culture.
The Alas y Voz campaign seeks to change both minds and hearts. Because there is so much shame in language loss, the issue is buried, both in the media as in community settings. We are talking openly about the real impact of language loss, on students, on families, and on communities.
We talk about how biliteracy helps them expand from their spoken voice, by being able to share their voices, their stories and their histories, with a larger group of people. This is symbolized by the Voz (voice) symbol.
The Alas y Voz campaign is building and consistently sharing through social media and workshop presentations, the messages that we hope will turn the tide on this problem.
Our website (alasyvoz) is the hub of our campaign for parents in Spanish. The English section can be found here.
The Elige (Choose) section includes a link to the California Department of Education's database of multilingual programs, so they can find out which programs are offered in the district where they live.
The Exige (Ask For) section includes information about the provisions established in Proposition 58 for them to ask their district to open a new bilingual program, if there isn't one in their community.
A link to our Alas y Voz YouTube channel which includes a library of videos and four video playlists along our four message areas: Benefits of Biliteracy, Choose and Ask for Programs, Language Loss and Think It Over.
A link to our Facebook community and our Instagram account where we are sharing the videos, graphics and stories of the campaign.
The Join the Campaign section that includes details about how to join the campaign on social media including a toolkit with everything parents, district staff or community presenters will need to share the details about the Alas y Voz campaign at a parent meeting.
Schools, districts and community presenters can purchase these postcards, that deliver our message and the various ways to find the Alas y Voz campaign.