ActivePaper Archive Family portraits mark community in transition - Reading Eagle, 4/7/2019

Family portraits mark community in transition



Joel Carabello photographs Denise Serratos and her two children, Arturo Arias, 2, and Beccam Arias, 7 months, on Saturday during the joint program of Barrio Alegria and Reading Public Library.

Denise Serratos is trying to teach her two sons lessons she missed out on.

Serratos of Reading grew up speaking Spanish in her home. But her parents, who both emigrated from Mexico when they had young children, never really thought it was important for her to learn to read or write the language because they believed English would be the key to a successful future in the United States.

That used to be a common assumption in many Spanish-speaking families, according to Barrio Alegria Executive Director Daniel Egusquiza. But his community development organization is working with families to help erase that assumption.

And Serratos is beginning to realize that teaching her young sons to speak, read and write in both languages may end up being the key to their success.

“Being fluent in two languages will give them more opportunities,” she said. “Doors will open for them if they have a strong understanding of English and Spanish.”

Egusquiza agrees, and says the best way to ensure that children have those skills is by starting those lessons at a young age.

“We want parents to know that it’s going to be valuable to their children when they get older,” he said. “It will also help them better understand their culture and their heritage. And those things are just as valuable.”

To help drive home that message, Barrio Alegria teamed with the Reading Public Library to offer free family portraits on Saturday in the hope it would encourage families to improve their Spanish literacy skills with a visit to one of the library’s four city branches. And the families were invited to pick those prints up May 18 with another visit to the library.

“This is just the first of three programs we are doing to promote literacy in Spanish-speaking families,” said Egusquiza, who also serves as outreach coordinator for the library. “We want to incentivize parents to read in both Spanish and English. And the library is a great partner in this effort.”

Egusquiza pointed out that studies have shown that children whose homes are filled with books, whose parents read to them and who have begun to understand the reading process have higher levels of reading skills and knowledge when they enter kindergarten than children who do have the same literacy experiences before entering school.

Iris Drey of Reaing knows those statistics, so she brings her grandchildren, 9-year-old Agustin Rangle and 6-year-old Melanie Rangle, to the library every Tuesday and most Saturdays.

She said, despite their Mexican heritage, they have a very limited understanding of the Spanish language. To remedy that, she has been teaching them a Spanish word every day they spend together.

“They don’t speak Spanish at all and it’s such a shame,” she said. “I always tell them two languages is better than one.”

Contact Karen Shuey: 610-371-5081 or