Take the case of the University of Houston’s Communication Sciences and Disorders Clinic and UH’s Arte Público Press (APP). The two entities, separated by a handful of buildings on the UH campus, had no obvious reason to interact. A little book brought them together.
“We didn’t have a relationship with Arte Público before,” said Rachel Aghara, assistant professor in the Communication Sciences and Disorders department. “What we know about children who are not monolingual English speaking children is that, in educational settings, and certainly speech and language settings like we have here, there is a challenge for them because they don’t necessarily see themselves represented in the materials that we have. And bilingual materials are scarce.”
The clinic serves adults and children in the community with speech and language challenges, though the majority of clients are children.
The book I Kick the Ball, by Houstonian Gwendolyn Zepeda is part of APP’s charge to use literature as a venue to promote health and wellness to bilingual children. When APP discovered who their on-campus neighbor was assisting, it delivered a cache of resources to Communication Sciences and Disorders. Written in both English and Spanish, the book has become an important material for clinicians working with bilingual children.
“The purpose of the books is to promote healthy eating habits and overall wellness. Communication Sciences and Disorders is using the books to help children with reading or with speech issues, but the children also are going to get the good healthy message from the book,” said APP’s Carmen Abrego. “It’s really exciting because it wasn’t a relationship we thought about right away.”
Arte Público Press is the nation’s largest publisher of contemporary and recovered Latino literature. APP will publish this special line of books and distribute them free to health workers in low-income communities.
Aghara says a recent survey found 22 languages represented in the case loads of Houston area pathologists. Among those who serve those clients, only four languages are spoken, giving this donation of books by APP added importance.
“When the children get their hands on these books, they see themselves in the stories and hear the language that’s being used at home,” Aghara said. “The book actually supports their learning and lets them know that their language and communities are being valued and it’s worth learning about that.”
Collaboration is part of what’s happening at the university of Houston. I’m Marisa Ramirez.
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