Bilingual Information Literacy and Academic Readiness: Reading, Writing and Retention

By Laskin, Miriam | Academic Exchange Quarterly, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview
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Bilingual Information Literacy and Academic Readiness: Reading, Writing and Retention


Laskin, Miriam, Academic Exchange Quarterly


Abstract

The common ground between academic and information literacies, which serves as a foundation for building skills needed by ESL/Spanish dominant students, is described. This article addresses innovations in the teaching-learning environment at Hostos Community College, City University of New York, through the development of an information literacy program designed to support the academic readiness skills required by a bilingual, urban student body. A collaborative initiative with the Counseling faculty was established to deliver a course integrated program reaching the majority of freshmen to teach students how to think critically, compare and contrast, and evaluate and analyze information resources.

Introduction

As the dawn of the Information Age becomes early morning, academic administrators, faculty, and librarians have begun the complex but imperative restructuring of the higher education teaching-learning environment in order for students to be successful in their studies and in their future careers. Many educators have studied, conferenced, networked and written about how to meet the challenge facing higher education institutions, of ever-increasing access to information afforded by digital technology and the Internet (Blakeslee, Owens & Dixon 2001; Breivik 2000; Bruce 1994; Leckie & Fullerton 1999; Rader 1996; Shapiro & Hughes 1996; Taylor & Stamatoplos 1999).

U.S. faculty and administrators have been both urged and supported by national educational organizations, library associations, regional accrediting agencies, state education departments and commissions, and independent organizations, to prepare students for life in this digital, information-laden world (ACRL 1998). In its most recent Standards, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education notes:

   Information Literacy is vital to all disciplines and to effective
   teaching and learning in any institution. Institutions of higher
   education need to provide students and instructors with the
   knowledge, skills, and tools to obtain information in many formats
   and media in order to identify, retrieve and apply relevant and
   valid knowledge and information resources to their study, teaching
   and research (MSCHE p.32).

In response to these Middle States mandates and to better serve our students, the Hostos Community College Library of the City University of New York (CUNY), developed and implemented an information literacy (IL) program in Spring 2001. In addition to fulfilling the Middles States goals, there were other practical and impelling reasons for the Library to create a strong information literacy program at this bilingual, urban community college. This article addresses innovations in the teaching-learning environment through the development of an information literacy program designed to support the academic literacy skills needed by a bilingual student body.

Hostos Community College, a Bilingual Institution

Eugenio Maria de Hostos Community College is the youngest and smallest of CUNY's six community colleges. In 1970, it opened in the South Bronx with a special mission, to provide "educational opportunities leading to socio-economic mobility for first and second generation Hispanics, African Americans, and other residents of New York City who have encountered significant barriers to higher education" (Hostos 2002).

Hostos is the only CUNY campus whose mission is specifically bilingual; it allows Spanish-dominant students to begin courses in their native language while developing English facility in an English as a Second Language Program. Of the 3,283 students enrolled at Hostos in 2001, 70% were Hispanic, 25% African American, and 64% of the student body were not born on the U.S. mainland. Further, 35% of the 2001 freshman class did not attend high school in New York State; many received their secondary education outside the U.

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