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Celebrating Literacy: UHD’s Bilingual E-Library


By Marie Jacinto

“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, 
an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics, and factories.”  
— Kofi Annan, Nobel Peace Prize Recipient

Aldine ISD’s Mariachi Acero and Ballet Folklórico Ketzally were on hand in Room A300 on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, setting a lively and festive tone for a morning program celebrating UHD’s major literacy initiative: the UHD Bilingual E-Library. 

Many of the Aldine ISD families participating in the program were in attendance alongside Program Director Dr. Maria Bhattacharjee, UHD President Loren J. Blanchard, UHD Provost Deborah E. Bordelon, and Aldine ISD Superintendent LaTonya M. Goffney.

The continuation of the Bilingual E-Library to improve the connectivity and literacy of Houston’s Hispanic community was made possible by the work of Drs. Maria Bhattacharjee and Irene Chen and a two-year, $2.5 million grant by the U.S. Department of Commerce received earlier this year.

UHD_1414The benefits of the UHD Bilingual E-Library include:

  • 240 Hispanic families in the two pilot schools (Bussey and Black elementaries) will improve their literacy by reading and writing stories together.
  • UHD students in the Department of Urban Education will receive training as they assist the families.
  • UHD students majoring in Communication and Technology will produce e-books, videos, and games for the e-library.
  • The e-library YouTube channel will offer professional development in literacy and reading comprehension development to Aldine ISD’s in-service bilingual teachers, UHD’s pre-service teachers, and Hispanic families globally.
  • A dramatic impact is likely on workforce development and, ultimately, the local economy as the City of Houston seeks to increase the literacy skills of Houstonians.
  • Worldwide access—the library is available via the web.

College of Public Service Dean Jonathon Schwartz emceed the event, with Provost Bordelon welcoming the crowd. “As part of every child’s right to education, literacy improves lives by expanding capabilities and, in turn, reduces poverty, increases participation in the workforce, and has positive effects on health and sustainable development,” said Bordelon. She shared that a recent report shows that Harris County’s economy could grow by $13 billion if adults with low literacy could increase their literacy skills by even one level. “We are delighted to partner with Aldine ISD on tackling this issue and, most of all, sharing the joy of storytelling and reading with your students and families,” Bordelon said. NbEFf4B3

“At $2.5 million, the bilingual e-library expansion and upgrade grant is one of the largest active grants in our College of Public Service,” stated UHD President Loren J. Blanchard. “When it comes to collaboration, partnerships, and community outreach, the Department of Urban Education is a model example.”

“UHD’s Bilingual Education Program is one of the largest producers of bilingual teachers in the Houston area,” continued Blanchard.  In addition to the grant for the Bilingual E-Library, Dr. Elizabeth Stackhouse and Dr. Ron Beebe received a U.S. Department of Education Title V Grant for $2.5 million over five years to support training and wraparound services for pre-service teachers seeking certifications in critical areas of need, such as bilingual and ESL education.

“As a Hispanic-Serving Institution, our commitment to bilingual and ESL education is an extension of our commitment to our students and the communities they call home,” said Blanchard. In turn, UHD acts as an anchor for those communities and as an anchor institution for Houston. UHD has set its sights on improving literacy, having an impact on workforce development and socioeconomic mobility for the entire region. 

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.