Service Learning Class Brings Children’s Literature to Community Schools- Dr. Rosa RiVera Furumoto

During the 2015-16 school year the Building Connections for Success program helped fund via the CSUN CIELO program, a CSUN service learning class taught by Dr. Rosa RiVera Furumoto. The course, CHS 480 Chicana/Latino Children’s Literature in Communities, brings together future teacher candidates and young students in community schools. Most of the future teacher candidates in Dr. RiVera Furumoto’s class are part of the Future Scholars for the Future of Los Angeles program.


The course is taken within a series of three total courses, two fall courses LRS 333, Perspectives on Literacy, LRS 433/F, Practicum in Early Literacy,co-taught by Professor Klein and Professor Sears provide a foundation for students addressing early literacy development and acquisition. The practicum focuses on the application of language development and early literacy. Dr. RiVera Furumoto says that in the first few weeks of third spring course she orients the students for the spring when they will be working with first graders and their families in the school parent centers during after school hours. The students prepare by examining Chicano/Latino children’s literature and critically analyzing how it may be used to engage children and families in literacy related activities that connect to the lives and experiences of the families


RiVera Furumoto says they partner with a program, Padres Pioneros/Parent Pioneers, that has been with the project for many years. The volunteers of Padres Pioneres come to CSUN and help prepare the students to work with the families in the elementary schools. They debrief and form model lessons with the students, all in preparation for the after school family literacy program.


“The Parent Pioneers are trained literacy coaches who know the communities well because they come from those communities, so that link helps even more. The women from the program are very down to earth, and my students are often surprised by how some of the volunteers remind them of their own parents,” Dr. RiVera Furumoto said.


There are currently two elementary school sites in San Fernando, San Fernando Elementary School and O’Melveny Elementary School, with other sites in Pacoima and Sylmar. Typically, about 10-15 families from each school are recruited for the after school program. The students’ entire families are invited and each classroom fills up quickly.


Dr. RiVera Furumoto said,“The key to the project is that the families can feel very connected with the literature, and we are trying to build a bridge from home to the schools. The children we target are first graders, but their siblings can be anything from infants to fifth graders.”


At first. Dr. RiVera Furumoto says the time in the family literacy class can be nerve-racking, but as the CSUN students dive into the material, everyone starts to feel comfortable, including the families. As future teachers, each CSUN student is assigned to develop the lessons they will implement with the families and they must work hard to create their own lessons.


While in this program, most of the CSUN students have not had student teaching yet, making this a great introduction to future teaching and they also gain an understanding of how to connect with families. Family culture and interests are utilized to connect with literacy. There is a large focus on the students discussing the themes and ideas in the books.

As future teachers, they grow to be more comfortable working with the students’ families. They also see how much these families care about their children’s education.


“It is really about developing critical thinking with the children and families and a love of reading. The parents realize they can talk with their children about books and connect themes in the books to their own families.We want to create and grow these partnerships between future teachers, young students, and their families so that everyone can be accountable to best help the child learn,” she said.


The CSUN students must also engage the young students and parents in writing their own stories in order for the children to see themselves as authors. The culminating Family Authors Fair is held at CSUN, where the children bring all of the stories they have written. The students in Dr. RiVera Furumoto’s class also write their own children’s book as well.


“It is really well attended, and buses bring all the families to campus. The families mingle and it is a really fun day. The students also take the families on a campus tour. We want the families to feel comfortable and feel like the University is a place for them and their children,” Dr. RiVera Furumoto said.


Even in their ninth year, the program evolves constantly because the students and families give feedback. They strive to grow and improve every school year. The service learning piece of this program is what makes it so successful.


As coordinator, Dr. RiVera Furumoto says she is grateful for all of the funding from BCFS via the CIELO program. With it, she says they can provide books at no cost to the families, and also children’s literature books used by the CSUN students for lesson preparation in the project.


Dr. RiVera Furumoto shares that all of the participating students were dedicated and hardworking, but one particular student who stood out was Yunie Suk. She says Suk epitomized what caring for the families was about.


Suk says her experience in the course was a special one and she feels that not only were the children positively impacted, but she and her classmates were as well.


“This course provides experience with real people and an environment for future teachers. Every single assignment Dr. RiVera Furumoto has planned for this course is very practical and meaningful. Understanding not only students, but also their parents deepens your respect for them and the respect naturally allows more sensitivity towards them,” Suk said.


Every year, Dr. RiVera Furumoto is always amazed how everyone comes together to make this program happen. She says that all of her students volunteer in different way to make the program the best it can be.