For the past four years, I served as superintendent of Oxnard School District, located 30 miles up the California coast from Malibu. But unlike Malibu, most of our school district’s 14,000 students come from low-income, Spanish-speaking families.

Yet, not all of our Latino families consider Spanish their first or second language. Nearly 500 families reported speaking Mixteco, an Indigenous language of Southern Mexico, which has scores of variants. For a long time, though, Mixteco wasn’t represented in any of our literacy materials, often making it hard for families to read together.

Recognizing the literacy barriers that our Mixteco-speaking families faced, Alvarado Zarate and Zarate Cruz approached our school board with an idea to help these students and their families read together. They got approval to translate some of our digital books available on myON, the educational software company Renaissance’s digital reading platform. The app gives students access to digital books that match their desired language and interests.

We then partnered with Renaissance and worked with them to translate digital books into written (transliterated) and spoken Mixteco. Now, Mixteco-speaking families throughout Oxnard have 25 books they can enjoy together. For the first time, our families can listen to stories in their native language and read stories that appreciate and preserve their rich culture.

With this effort, Mixteco has “been given light,” as Alberto Mendoza, a district parent support liaison, put it. “It’s been given that space to say yes, you and your language are part of us.”

Read the full article about indigenous languages and education by Karling Aguilera-Fort at Chalkbeat.