Dual Language SchoolsLa Pulga in the Classroom

Author Photo: Dr. Christian Zúñiga

Photo for: La Pulga in the Classroom Grandma and Me at the Flea/Los meros meros remateros

“School” language is believed to be complex, sophisticated, and indicative of higher language proficiency. “Home” language, on the other hand, is often viewed as basic and rudimentary. Literacy research reminds us that “academic” language is really the situated language of domains like math, science, technology, etc. (Gee, 2007). Therefore, “pedagogies of the home” (Delgado Bernal, 2001), the cultural and linguistic knowledge gleaned in our communities, include a vast range of complex and sophisticated language. Latinx children’s literature is an excellent resource for culturally sustaining pedagogies that reaffirm cultural and linguistic knowledge (Alim & Paris, 2017), and widen our understandings of “academic” language beyond schools and towards “pedagogies of the home”.

I often use Juan Felipe Herrera’s book, Grandma and Me at the Flea/Los meros meros remateros (2002) with my bilingual pre-service teachers to explore cultural and linguistic community wealth and broaden perspectives of “academic” language. Living on the U.S.-Mexico border, I think la pulga (flea market) puts our local, cultural, and linguistic wealth on full display. In the story, Juanito runs errands for his grandmother, who runs a stand at la pulga. There he interacts with a whole community offering a variety of goods and services. The English and Spanish text run side-by-side offering an excellent scaffolding opportunity for metalinguistic analysis and comparison of language elements like lexical and phonological structures.

Herrera uses terms related to a variety of domains like hardware (destornilladores/screwdrivers; casquillos/sockets), clothing (peletero/belt salesman; hebilla/belt buckles), illness (reuma/rheumatism; jaqueca/pounding headache), etc. I use the translations with my pre-service teachers who, like our bilingual children, may not need to be explained the purpose of a “destornillador”, but do need its English translation of “screwdriver” or vice versa.

I invite bilingual teachers to not see home and school language as opposite sides of a simple/complex language spectrum. Resources like Juan F. Herrera’s book help us to find complexity in the familiar. Our pedagogies of the home should not be seen as irrelevant to children’s learning; rather, we should look to community spaces like la pulga as an extension of our classrooms.

Dr. Christian E. Zúñiga will be presenting on the importance of using authentic children’s Latinx literature to develop biliteracy in elementary dual language programs at the 2019 TABE Conference in Corpus Christi, Texas. She, along with other experts and advocates for biliteracy, will offer breakout sessions at the conference on how to endorse biliteracy, bilingualism, and biculturalism. Additionally, renown author Victor Villaseñor, Mexican-American writer best known for the national bestselling book Rain of Gold, will deliver a keynote address at the TABE Conference promoting the infusion of Latinx literature in the classrooms.


Alim, S., & Paris, D. (2017). What is culturally sustaining pedagogy and why does it matter? In D. Paris and S. Alim (Eds.). Culturally sustaining pedagogies: Teaching and Learning for justice in a changing world (pp. 1-21). New York: Teachers College Press.

Delgado Bernal, D. (2001). Learning and living pedagogies of the home: The mestiza consciousness of Chicana students. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 14(5), 623-639.

Gee, J. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy (Revised and updated edition). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Herrera, J.F. (2002). Grandma and me at the flea/Los meros meros remateros. San Francisco: Children’s Book Press.