Los Dichos: Values, Partnership and Cultural Identity in the Classroom

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by Lorena Romero and Lety Gomez
Rocketship Parents, Fuerza Community Prep

If we want our kids to be lifelong readers, we as parents must read to them, with them and around them. Why not take this approach into the classroom? To help Rocketeers learn to love reading, many Rocketship parents, including us, participate in the Los Dichos Program through Project Cornerstone, an initiative of the YMCA of Silicon Valley. Los Dichos is a literature-based program emphasizing stories of Latino origin that not only benefits the students, but also benefits the parents.

The Los Dichos program helps parents, especially those parents who speak Spanish as their primary language, to be involved in their children’s education and instill a positive cultural identity. We begin by taking an introductory course on developmental assets by a Project Cornerstone staff. We meet monthly as a group to review and discuss lesson plans and activities before we go into the classroom.

The books we read are bilingual and teach students about the Latino culture and values. Each one has a dicho, or saying, that reflects the story. After reading the bilingual book to the class, we lead activities and discussion on various topics such as family pride, peaceful conflict resolution and other values. By leading a lesson in Spanish in the classroom, Latino students can see how important their culture is and other students can learn about the Latino culture and learn to respect the values. Being part of Los Dichos program has helped many parents realize the importance of being involved in our children’s education, even if we do not speak English.

Parents participating in the Los Dichos program learn a strategy to pair students in groups of two for quick discussions during read alouds.

When we signed up to volunteer, we thought we were just going to read any book. But instead, we received training and lesson plans to help us read to the students effectively.

Research says that this approach – developing positive cultural identity through literature – matters when closing the achievement gap. According to Project Cornerstone, if students feel their culture is both honored and respected at school, they are more likely to pay attention in class, do their homework and work cooperatively with their classmates.

“The impact of Los Dichos is threefold,” says Los Dichos Coordinator Brenda Serna. “First, the parent volunteers become empowered to better support their children’s academic success. Second, by leading a lesson in Spanish, the parents demonstrate in the classroom that their language and culture are valued. This helps build a positive cultural identity for their children and their Latino classmates. Third, all the students in the class learn the same positive lesson and develop greater appreciation and respect for the Latino culture; promoting cultural competence and tolerance throughout the school community.”

Once a month, for one hour, we are teachers in our children’s classroom, and our children love it. Parents do not just get to see their children in the classroom partnering with the classroom teacher, but also get to know the other students, and all the students get to know us and see us as one of their teachers. The values Los Dichos instills are lifelong and we are proud to teach them. Los Dichos is truly a benefit to all children in our community.

In addition to our work at Fuerza, three other Rocketship schools are currently participating in this collaborative program. The benefits are so great, though, that we anticipate more campuses getting involved. Are you interested in creating your own Los Dichos program at your child’s school? Please contact Brenda Serna, Los Dichos Coordinator at YMCA Project Cornerstone, at 408-351-6462 or brenda@projectcornerstone.org.


Lety was born and raised in East San Jose where she lives with three children with her husband. Her oldest daughter is an ILS Tutor at Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep; her youngest is a student there. Lety is a passionate parent leader and works with Rocketeer parents throughout the Bay Area. She knows parents have the power to be agents of change in our education system and communities. 

Lorena, a mother of five, has always been involved in her children’s educations. Her youngest child attends Fuerza Community Prep and her older children attend high school at Downtown College Prep. Lorena believes children excel when they see their parents involved in their education. 

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