Exploring Literacy in Mexico

Photo by Jessica Dennes - Guanajuato at Sundown from a Rooftop Terrace

Photo by Jessica Dennes – Guanajuato at Sundown from a Rooftop Terrace

This week we have a guest blog from Jessica Dennes, our Reading Seed Coach Manager and Trainer. Over the summer she studied literacy abroad in Mexico and reflects on her experiences below.

As the Volunteer Manager and Trainer for the Reading Seed program of Literacy Connects, I am naturally curious about literacy in various settings. So it is no surprise that I would decide to study literacy in multiple settings when I studied abroad in Mexico this past summer. Thanks to the flexibility of my role at Literacy Connects, I had the opportunity to join the University of Arizona’s Verano en México study abroad program. The six credit hours applied directly to my pursuit of a master’s degree in Teaching and Teacher Education in the College of Education. For seven weeks, I took classes, volunteered in public schools, traveled to different cities, practiced speaking academic Spanish to present at conferences, and met some really interesting people.

During Noche Porfiriana, performers showcase local dances.

During Noche Porfiriana, performers showcase local dances.

I stayed with a host family in Guanajuato (pictured above), a beautiful small city located near the very center of the country. The cobble stone streets and colorful, colonial architecture provided a dream-like landscape amid the modern cars that roamed the streets and shops selling the latest fashions. I can still smell the sweet aroma of freshly baked pan dulce as I reminisce on my walks to the city center. Sunday mornings were my favorite time to take walks as it seemed that everyone was outside – vendors selling fruit and flowers, families dressed in their best outfits as they walked to the nearby cathedrals, tourists roaming the streets in awe of the unique buildings – people were everywhere making the city come to life. My time in Guanajuato was truly memorable and I will forever be grateful to have experienced Mexican culture in such a timeless setting.

 The children of the preschool wearing special chef hats.

The children of the preschool wearing special chef hats.

Throughout the seven weeks, I observed different classrooms in three different elementary and preschools, took classes with my professor and many guest lecturers, facilitated literature workshops at a community center called Resplandor where I also helped to get the library ready for its inauguration, and observed story time held by a local university professor. During the final two weeks, I also prepared to present at two different workshops, one for a teaching organization in Guadalajara and another for a conference at the Normal School in Guanajuato. When I was not working in these settings, I was working on projects for my job at Reading Seed in nearby coffee shops or strolling about to enjoy the sights and sounds of the beautiful city. While I certainly kept busy, I was grateful for the opportunity to experience working in my field in a different language.

The most memorable experience was our trip to Mexico City during week five of the program. We visited the Ballet Folklórico, the pyramids in Teotihuacán, the home of Frida Khalo, the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, the Zócalo, and so many more beautiful and interesting places. We even did a tour of the city to visit the many murals of the famous artist Diego Rivera. Although we saw many sights, six days was not enough to experience everything that this enormous city had to offer.

Many of our wonderful volunteers have asked about my trip and shared their experiences in the same cities with me. What a joy it is to share with you all! To view more pictures and learn more details about my adventures, you can watch my digital story here.

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