Field Report: Reading in an American School


Yours Humanly

December 15, 2019

Field Report: Reading in an American School

“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories… Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”
― Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations

Welcome to the Bay Area, California, USA. This expanse of 10,189 square miles is home to the headquarters of no less than thirty-four Fortune 500 companies, three of America’s best universities, and innumerable pennant-winning sports teams. It is also home to mind-boggling income disparities, commute times, and educational challenges. Focusing in on a small corner of this microcosm universe, today we are looking at literacy efforts in an underserved community within the Bay Area. Located in the largest city in the largest county of the eastern portion of the Bay Area, the Monument Corridor is almost synonymous with the all-too-real struggle in chasing the American dream.

To get a better flavor for what challenges are arising in the reading arena, I asked Josue Monterrosa, an educator who practices in the Monument Corridor.

“The parents of these children need to spend a lot of time working. That limits the time that they can interact with their children. This limits the amount of words that the children learn in the early years. A limited vocabulary in return limits their literature comprehension. If we compound, and this is not true for all the families, that their academic level might be low, the quality of the conversations at home might also be very basic. Parents are unable to help with homework because of time or knowledge,” he shared over email.

Most of his students have improved their reading during their first trimester, which is a significant milestone. “All of the students that improved read at home. All of the students that improved had an adequate improvement. Sometimes the students in affluent schools improved in spite of having bad teachers. And sometimes the students in our schools have modest improvements not because we are bad teachers or we are not working with them, but because by the time they came to us they were already many years behind. So, some parents consider affluent schools as good schools based on the scores when it might have nothing to do with the school’s efforts to improve the learning of their students.”

As Henry Ward Beecher poetically put it, “we should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.” Yours Humanly is committed to providing more resources for schools like Josue’s, so the distance to academic excellence does not become unattainably long. We hope you will join us for the ride.

To get involved, give us a call or send us an email!

Eleanor Chin

Eleanor is a freelance writer crazy about international public policy, micro-mobility, ed-tech, venture capital, and of course, education. A native of the Bay area, she can normally be found reading, writing, eating, or listening to podcasts.