by Christina Mouttet
Libros de Familia is one of the outreach programs offered through the UF Chapter of Children Beyond Our Borders Inc. It pairs UF students with migrant families in Alachua County. Volunteers visit the family’s home once a week to read to the kids and help them with their homework. This is extremely beneficial to the families as English is a second language for many of them, so they struggle with reading and writing. Parents often find it difficult to provide this assistance because of the language barriers present.
This is my second semester volunteering with Libros de Familia and the experience has been amazing. My partner and I visit our family’s home every Friday afternoon. Our family has three children: Jenny, who is in 10th grade, Angel who is in 4th grade, and David, who is in 2nd grade. While the children speak English fluently, the English of their parents is extremely limited. A major issue is that, due to both language and cultural barriers, their parents do not understand notes from the teachers, the American grading system, or their children’s homework. One of our tasks on our weekly visits is to translate this information for them, which allows them to be more involved and understand how their children are doing in school.
Then, after working on homework for about an hour, we eat dinner with the family. We alternate between Daisy (their mom) cooking and us bringing food. Personally, this is my favorite part. Not only do I get to sample home-cooked Latin food (which is delicious) but we get to talk to the family about subjects beyond school. I get to practice my Spanish with them while they practice their English with us. It also so eye-opening to hear about their story and their culture. Our dinners with the family has really allowed my partner and I to build a bond with them.
“My favorite part of Libros is definitely the relationship I’ve built with the family. While I do love helping the kids with homework, what I value the most is the bond I’ve built with them. I’ve learned so much about their culture and lifestyle, and the experience has been irreplaceable,” said Iman Whyte, my partner.
My favorite memory from last semester was when we were invited to Jenny’s birthday party. We got to meet her friends from school and sing her happy birthday. I will never forget meeting her aunts and uncles from Puerto Rico who told me all about the culture and traditions of their countries.
It is safe to say participating in Libros de Familia has been one of my favorite parts of my college experience so far!