Tammy Oberg De La Garza, assistant professor of language and literacy, has received a prestigious 2011-12 American Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW).
The eight-week fellowship, including a $6,000 grant award, will pave the way for completion of a Latina literacy study that began last fall as a service-learning project in Oberg De La Garza’s Teaching Reading in Elementary Schools READ 320 class. During the course, youths attending five elementary schools in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood were given disposable cameras and asked to photograph literacy at school, home and in the community. Books and children reading and writing were prevalent in photos taken at the schools. However, images at home and in the community commonly focused on street and business signs in Spanish, murals, neighborhood graffiti and on parents, representing an oral literacy tradition. “This project shows us that access to literacy in the Latino community is limited,” said Oberg De La Garza. “It also suggests that Latinos value non-academic forms of literacy, which is important to understand if we, as educators, are to improve opportunities for literacy success in these communities.”
The AAUW fellow has spent the summer writing up findings and recommendations for improving literacy, particularly among young Latinas, who often lag behind their peers from other communities and groups both in finishing high school and in graduating from college. “My focus is on Latinas’ own perception of themselves,” said Oberg De La Garza, who plans to publish her findings in an academic journal. “Too often these young women don’t have college on their radar, and we need to change that,” she said.
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