9-year-old TFLP student creates backyard summer learning program

Like cookouts and hot weather, summer school is a typical part of the season.

But there was nothing common about a Los Angeles program started in 2012 in the back yard of an inner-city neighborhood. The creator and teacher was a nine-year-old Toyota Family Literacy Program (TFLP) student named Jose Escobedo, who spent six weeks of his summer teaching 13 children ages two to 11 as well as four mothers.

Jose put into practice the things he learned while attending the family literacy program with his mother, Rosalba, who finished all three levels of ESL in her adult class. Her need was urgent because one of her sons was born with stomach problems that required extensive medical care, but she could not communicate with the doctors.

Jose first decided to help his brother and sister by teaching them math, the alphabet, sight words, and songs.

After helping them, he felt that he could do more and decided to help others outside his family. Jose talked with his mother about opening a summer school. He also received guidance from Dr. Irene James, the former adult ESL teacher at 66th Street Elementary School, which is a TFLP site.  She connected the adult classroom to the children’s curriculum very intentionally and encouraged Jose to start his summer school by giving him direction and supplies to get started.

“We discussed his goals and objectives in opening the school and who he wanted to help and how,” James said. “I gave him some help with how he could assist those children I helped during Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®.  He was very attentive and used my guidance during his class time.  He gave specific assignments to the children and had them follow a summer class routine with breaks and activities like gardening and exercise.

“When asked why he did this for his family and friends, he said that he saw what I did, and he wanted to do the same. He wants to share his knowledge with others, too.”

Jose also told James that he saw how his parents and whole family changed after attending family literacy classes. His mother could communicate and volunteer at his magnet school, and his father started to learn English from his mother. Jose attends Brentwood Science Magnet School and has been reclassified as a gifted student. His sister, Carla, did not have to take ESL classes because Jose’s help made a difference with her academic advancement.

Like Jose encouraged other children, Rosalba also started encouraging mothers in the neighborhood to attend ESL classes and get involved with their children’s education. Other mothers now come and ask her for advice about schools and bus information for their children.

This summer, Jose decided that he wanted to focus on health and fitness. He recruited the same kids from last summer to take swimming lessons at the community pool and their moms came too. He incorporated the goals and objectives used in family literacy to have parent and child learning together.

The Escobedo family has shown how TFLP not only uplifts an entire family, but its benefits are amplified exponentially beyond the four walls of the classroom and beyond the four walls of a home to reach entire neighborhoods and communities.