The United States Census Bureau projects that Hispanics/Latinos will make up 38 percent of the United States' younger population (children under 18) by 2060. The growing Hispanic/Latino population creates a variety of challenges (e.g., understanding Hispanic/Latino culture, forming good relationships with Hispanic/Latino families, and fostering children's English-language skills) that teachers and schools will have to better address in the coming years.
Hispanic/Latino boys experience many of the same racial disparities that African American boys do in education, but many Hispanic/Latino boys speak little English, which puts them at an even bigger disadvantage when they enter school. This is why it's important for teachers and caregivers to nurture Hispanic/Latino boys while they're in preschool. Giving Hispanic/Latino boys the assistance they need at an early age will ultimately help them start off their school careers positively and influence their success in school and in life. Ruth Hanford Morhard includes the following strategies for nurturing Hispanic/Latino boys in Wired to Move:
Help Hispanic/Latino Preschool Boys Develop Their English-Language SkillsHow proficient a Hispanic/Latino boy is in English often dictates how successful he will be academically, so it's important that boys develop their English-language skills before they start school. Boys often lag behind girls in language development, so make sure you expose Hispanic/Latino boys to the English language on a daily basis. Here are a few tips for helping Hispanic/Latino boys develop their English-language skills:
- If the child does not know a lot of English, make sure an aide or teacher who can speak his language and understands his culture is in the classroom. You should also make an effort to learn Spanish, but keep in mind that the types of Spanish children speak may vary.
- Assess the child to determine how much English he knows, and make observations on his reactions and interactions with you and the other students in the classroom.
- As they play in different activity centers, have other children in the class teach him the English words for certain objects. This will help him learn English while also helping him improve his social skills.
Make an Effort to Learn About Hispanic/Latino CultureUnderstanding the Hispanic/Latino culture is an essential part of nurturing Hispanic/Latino boys in preschool. There are several variations of the Hispanic/Latino culture, so make sure you learn the relevant one for each child. Some Hispanic/Latino families may be legal residents/citizens or temporary migrant farmers, while others may be here illegally. Knowing each child's unique situation will help you better understand each boy and his family. Here are some ways you can learn more about the Hispanic/Latino culture:
- Examine your beliefs about the Hispanic/Latino culture and eliminate any stereotypes you identify. Once you do this, you can successfully set out to discover what the Hispanic/Latino culture truly entails.
- Read about Hispanic/Latino history and culture–make sure you learn about specific Hispanic/Latino cultural groups. Keep in mind that knowing this information will help you better connect with boys and their families.
- Make an effort to visit the neighborhoods and communities where the boys and their families live. Try to talk to some of the other people who live in the community while you're there. Also take note of any Hispanic/Latino agencies or social service organizations that are in the community–this may provide you with more insights and resources to help the Hispanic/Latino boys in your classroom.
Find Ways to Connect with Hispanic/Latino Boys' FamiliesLearning about the Hispanic/Latino culture will help you better understand boys' beliefs, customs, and traditions. It will also help you establish relationships with boys' families. Family is a major part of the Hispanic/Latino culture, so it's important that you meet with boys' families and make an effort to get to know them. Here are a few ways you can connect with boys' families:
- Schedule a home visit before the beginning of the school year. Consider bringing them a personal gift (e.g., a plate of fresh-bakes cookies), and make sure you bring a translator along if you do not speak or understand Spanish. Keep an open mind and express genuine interest in their culture and home life.
- During the home visit, try to determine how much English the family knows, what the family's education and employment situations are, what the family views as the boy's strengths and weaknesses, and what the family thinks may stand in the way of the boy's success in school.
- Continue communication after the home visit. Let parents know how their son is doing in school and ask for their input on certain subjects. Many Hispanic/Latino families may be uncomfortable with coming to the school for meetings, so try to have face-to-face meetings with them a few times a year at their home or at another location where they feel comfortable.
Be Welcoming and Foster Warm RelationshipsHispanic/Latino boys are used to being in warm, comfortable family environments and will likely feel uncomfortable and unsafe in a new setting, especially if they don't speak English or only know a few words. If boys feel this way, they will have more difficulty learning and establishing relationships in the classroom, so strive to create an environment where they will feel wanted and secure. Here are a few ways you can help Hispanic/Latino boys feel welcome and comfortable in your classroom:
- Greet the child and his family member by name and with a Spanish-language greeting. You can also make sure the other children in your classroom learn Spanish-language greetings. This will help the child feel included in the classroom environment.
- Tell the other children in the classroom about his culture and teach children words in Spanish–start by sharing Spanish words for colors and numbers.
- Hispanic/Latino boys are used to affection, so pat them on the back or give them hugs or handshakes when they do something well.
Take Time to Celebrate the Hispanic/Latino Culture in the ClassroomThe classroom environment should be inclusive of Hispanic/Latino boys and their culture, traditions, and beliefs. Including items that represent the Hispanic/Latino culture will help boys feel secure in the classroom. Here are a few other ways you can celebrate Hispanic/Latino culture and nurture Hispanic/Latino boys in preschool:
- Post pictures of notable Hispanics and Latinos around the classroom. You can also ask successful Hispanics/Latinos in the local community to come in and talk with children about their experiences.
- Give children the chance to share information about their heritage, family, and traditions. Ask children to bring items from home that represent their culture. You can also ask if the boys' families would be willing to bring in Mexican, Cuban, or Puerto Rican food for children to try.
- Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15), Cinco de Mayo (May 5), and other special days and holidays in Hispanic/Latino culture. Ask what holidays and special days are celebrated in boys' homes, and see if children's families want to participate in the classroom festivities.
Create a Sense of CommunityWith the family dynamic being so strong in the Hispanic/Latino culture, it's important that you try to create a sense of community in the classroom. Creating a classroom environment in which children care about each other and work together to solve problems or complete activities will help Hispanic/Latino boys feel more comfortable. Here are a few other ways you can create a sense of community and help the Hispanic/Latino boys in your classroom succeed:
- Develop projects that involve all of the children in your classroom, and give children positive feedback and recognition when they accomplish something as a group. Refer to the classroom as "our classroom" to encourage a sense of classroom unity.
- Let boys work in teams, and emphasize group decision making and problem solving.
- Do not discipline boys in front of the other children in the classroom. Try using constructive approaches to discipline that won't affect the overall sense of community that Hispanic/Latino boys need to feel comfortable.
Setting your expectations high is another good way to nurture Hispanic/Latino boys in preschool. Make sure you set concrete goals for all of the children in your class and let Hispanic/Latino boys know that you believe in them and their abilities. For more tips on nurturing Hispanic/Latino boys in preschool and other related topics, be sure to read Wired to Move and browse our related products for materials you can use to make your classroom more inclusive.