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SMHS Emerging Bilingual Students Become Published Children’s Book Authors

Forty-three San Marcos High School Emerging Bilingual students recently became published authors. 

Twenty-seven students in Mrs. Norma Ybarra’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) I class, and 16 students in Mrs. Alethea Cavin’s ESOL II course wrote children’s books. Through a grant from A+ Federal Credit Union, the SMHS students had their books published in hardback. Cavin said the project, which aligned with the classes’ curriculum, provided an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in the English language. 

“I think it’s really good for them to think of themselves as authors, going through the process of writing,” said Cavin. “It’s very hard at first going through the process of writing because in the beginning of writing, they think, ‘Oh no, I can’t write a book. I can’t do that.’ And then, they see the whole process with the writing project. It’s really cool to see them struggle as writers but then find their identity in writing, and let them choose what they want to write about.” 

Cavin’s course focused their books on social justice issues. Several books discuss mental health, others adjusting to new schools, and others healthy living. Sharon Artola Torres, a sophomore in Cavin’s class, wrote “Understanding your mind,” which highlights the importance of mental health. 

“I wrote about issues when I was a child, like emotions, these are things that happen in your life and I think I give some solutions to these problems,” said Artola Torres, who immigrated to San Marcos from Nicaragua and has been learning English for 10 months. 

Nestor Gonzalez Sanchez, a freshman in Cavin’s class, wrote “Jesus and His New Friends,” a story about adjusting to moving and starting to attend a new school. 
“It’s a book about a boy when his family moved to another city, and he was a child at his new school,” said Gonzalez Sanchez. “His new classmates ignored him because they did not know him. When his teacher did an activity with the class, they learned he was very friendly and a good person.” 

Cavin said her students were all happy when they saw their books published. 

“We’ve been on our computer screens reading them, and then when they came in, they were like, ‘Oh my God, it’s so beautiful,’ and they’re proud of their books,” said Cavin. 

Ybarra, whose class wrote fiction books, said her students all have a desire to better themselves, and this project was another way for her class to value learning English.

“The most important thing is that our students from other countries, they come with a desire to better themselves, to learn as fast as they can, so they can start working and help their parents,” said Ybarra. “They are driven in that they want to help their parents, and some of them left their parents in their own countries —They’re here with siblings, older siblings, or family members — but that’s the goal, to learn as much as they can to help their parents. And, they’re very respectful and they do believe in education.”