How did Tia Lola come to stay? I will tell you in my letter to Jen!

Dear Jen,

Thank you for being so patient with me! I am finally getting a chance to sit down and write to you and I am so excited about the book we just read! It was a wonderful novel! Before we begin discussing the book, I wanted to answer a few of your questions from your last letter. I have a relatively small family; it’s Mom, Dad, and my older brother, John. I do not have any pets, but I used to have a cute golden retriever! My hobbies including playing soccer, playing the guitar, and spending time with friends. I also love music! It sounds like we have a lot in common! Feel free to write me anytime and ask any more questions about me/the book!

I LOVED this book. At first I wasn’t sure that I would understand it because I don’t speak Spanish or understand Spanish traditions, but the story line was very easy to follow! There are few questions I am still thinking about. They are: Why did Miguel initially want Tia Lola to be top-secret and why/when did he change his mind? Also, how does his understanding of family change by the end of the book? I thought those were very important lessons to get out of the novel. Lastly, I loved the ways that Tia Lola brought her Dominican culture to Vermont! I think she really helped put life in perspective for Miguel and his sister. What do you think? Do you think Tia Lola’s character was more child-like or more motherly? Did she set a good example for the kids?

My favorite part was when Miguel and his sister realized how much they cared about Tia Lola when they lost her in New York City on page 77. That really showed how much Miguel valued family! Also, on page 50, I thought it was so funny when Miguel thought Tia Lola’s food brought good luck! Imagine if that was true! How did his realization (that she wasn’t just lucky) change his relationship with Tia Lola? What did this teach him about her culture? This was when Miguel realized that the Spanish culture was different than his own and that in order to communicate with Tia Lola, he needed to learn Spanish. I’m curious if you think that him learning Spanish was a good idea and how it changed their relationship!

Overall, it is clear that Tia Lola’s visit was beneficial to Miguel and his family. I’m so glad she decided to stay and make the most of her time in America.

I can’t wait to hear what you think about the book! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! Feel free to ask my any questions that you come up with while reading my letter!

Write back soon!


And the reading begins…

As I finish reading, Jen is just beginning to read How Tia Lola Came To Stay.

To-Do Timeline:

Nov 14 – Nov 18 = Finish reading the book
Nov 19 + 20 = Prepare thought-provoking questions and discussion prompts for Jen to respond to, in order to test her reading comprehension
Nov 25 = Jen finishes reading the book and responds to my questions
Nov 26 – on = Analysis of the program and evaluation of volunteer involvement in DC/MD/VA area (based on flyers collected, site visits, likes on facebook page, etc.)

I cannot believe my project is already coming to a close. I plan to continue to help Jen for as long as she needs my assistance. What a wonderful opportunity.

Remember, there are many opportunities for you to get involved too! Refer back to my first blog post for more information on educational non-profits.

Calling all selfless volunteers!

I heard from Jamie, the teacher, once again this week. She indicated that the students have just ordered the books and will not received them for about a week. Once they have their books, it will be roughly 2-3 weeks until they finish the book.

In the meantime, I will be reading How Tia Lola Came to Stay. Once I am finished, I will write a letter to Jen with thought-provoking questions about the book to assess her level of comprehension. This conversation will continue until the end of the semester.

Now, it’s YOUR TURN: Here’s how you get involved.

1. Go to the In2Books Volunteer Homepage
2. Click the orange box that reads “Join Now!”
3. Follow steps one through three (takes approx. 5-10 minutes to fill out)
4. Eagerly await your pairing with a pen-pal across the country!

WIN! Exactly what I needed to hear. Now where to go from here…?

Just heard from the In2Books social media liaison – it appears that the program doesn’t have much on the social media front. Therefore, I’ll have to look into their needs, volunteer populations they want to reach out to, etc. Lets goooooo!

Hi Demi,

Your interest in helping us expand our social media presence has been forwarded to me. We would like to take better advantage of social media and welcome your initiative.
I look forward to hearing from you. Nina

Nina Zolt

How Tia Lola Came to Stay by Julia Alvarez

Jamie just contacted me via email. It turns out that Jen’s class will be reading “How Tia Lola Came to Stay” by Julia Alvarez. My next move will be to purchase/borrow this book and keep up with their class reading. I will then discuss the book with Jen and I will make sure she understands the important details and lessons.

According to an review, How Tia Lola Came to Stay is:

A story about a 10-year old boy experiencing major changes in his life – who is learning how to deal with these changes. Miguel has moved from NYC to a small town in Vermont because his parents are getting a divorce. His mother has a new job as a counselor at a college, and Miguel and his little sister, Juanita, have to start a new life with her.

It is hard for Miguel to be the only Latino in his class and he misses his father. He tries not to say too much about his feelings, as he doesn’t want to upset his mother. Even so, he is not thrilled when she tells him that her aunt, Tia Lola, is coming from the Dominican Republic to help take care of them while they get settled. She doesn’t speak English and Miguel and Juanita only speak a little Spanish.

Tia Lola arrives like a burst of sunshine on a cold, gray Vermont day. She brings good food, love, laughter, and a spice for life. She is not worried about fitting in and everyone loves her, though Miguel cannot help but be embarrassed by her at first. Through her colorful approach to life she helps Miguel and his family figure out how to cope with all the changes in their lives and comes up with a plan to help Miguel make friends.

How Tia Lola Came to Stay touches on subjects that are relevant to children today. Divorce, moving, family dynamics, learning to fit in are topics with which many children have to deal. Julia Alvarez does a nice job of sprinkling the dialogue with Spanish words and finding authentic reasons to translate them in the text. Tia Lola’s joyful way of living life comes through in the situations and language Alvarez uses. Miguel’s maturation through the book is gradual and believable as he works through his feelings about what has happened to his family. All in all this book is a good read.

In cahoots with Jen’s teacher, Jamie!

Jen’s teacher, Jamie, wrote her students’ pen-pals a welcome letter, which I thought was very nice! It reassured me that I had a real impact on this student’s life! Also, I thought it was neat that Jamie shared that she is serving as a pen-pal for another student in a Minnesota school system! She will be a great resource for me as the weeks go on. I can’t wait to get to know Jen and Jamie. I love the interpersonal In2Books interactions already! Here’s Jamie’s letter:

Hello Penpals. Thank you so much for volunteering to do this wonderful program. This is my first year doing it and I am very excited. I work in a school for children with learning differences (Dyslexia, AD/HD, etc.). We do not have grades and instruction is completely individualized. I have 4 students that are participating in this program. Bradley is 9, Jen is 13, Cooper is 13, and Matthew is 12. So eventhough some of them are older, they are on lower reading levels.

They loved reading the first letters you sent them. They are currently choosing their first book (fiction) and you will be notified about their choices today or tomorrow. If you could buy or check the book out in the next week that would be great. I am thinking it will probably take the students about a month to read their book. So try to have the book read by mid-November. I will have them write you when they are about half way through and then you can respond. Then they will write to you when the book is finished. Try to think of good thought provoking questions you can ask the students in your letters.

So I wanted to be on both sides of this program so I am actually a penpal with a student in Minnesota. I am doing exactly what you all are doing!

Let me know if you have questions about anything. I am so happy to be a part of this program. My students have had difficulty with reading in the past and I know this is going to help motivate them to read independently.

Thanks again! Jamie

My New Pen-pal, Jen!

Through In2Books, I recently enrolled to become a online pen-pal for a student somewhere in the US to help with their reading comprehension. As an e-mentor, I will communicate with my student via online letters through the In2Books website (and coordinate with the student’s teacher) to make sure the student is on track with their classroom reading assignments. Each week, I will discuss with the student to make sure they fully understand the reading.

Just yesterday, I was assigned a student! I am officially an e-penpal for the 2011-2012 school year! I was assigned a 13-year old student named Jen! Here is the letter she wrote to me:

Hi my name is Jen. I am 13 years old.
I go to Oakland school. I am from Ohio but I board at a school in Va. Where do you live?

I have six people in my family. My moms names is Laura, my dads name is Jerry,
my sister is Jana, and my brothers are Jesse and Jay. Do you have a big family?

I have two cats and two dogs. My sister has a horse. Do you have any pets?

My hobbies are writing, listening to music, and hanging out with my friends.
I also play soccer. What do you like to do for fun?

I am so excited to have you as my penpal. I can’t wait to hear from you!

Your pen pal,

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