“In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.” – Junot Diaz 
Put yourself in the shoes of a fourth grader. You are part of a bilingual program that starts in Kindergarten and teaches you both English and Spanish. You might be a first generation immigrant, an American citizen who has been bilingual for most of your life, or an English speaker eager to connect with your parents’ language. Your family could speak only English or only Spanish at home. Your classmates become your comrades in arms – they translate, they assist, they play, they learn – all with you at their side.
As part of my educational studies major during my undergraduate degree, I pursued a course entitled English Language Learners, which allowed me the opportunity to work one on one with Spanish speaking students in a bilingual program in central Illinois. The students that I worked with each week faced what seemed like a never-ending bombardment of obstacles to overcome. They faced teachers that yelled content louder at their faces thinking that it would make them understand. They struggled to relate to other students who weren’t always as accepting as their bilingual peers. They got frustrated at having to look up every other word of their report on animals in the dictionary because there really is no reason that the English language spells “skin” with a “k” instead of with a “c”. They were stereotyped as illegal, as immigrants, as undocumented, as slow, and as the quintessential other. To some within the education system they became statistics to improve instead of the creative learners and skilled communicators I knew them to be.
Authors such as Junot Diaz write to counteract these misconceptions and break down stereotypes about Latino Americans. In Diaz’s short story entitled “Fiesta 1980”, he delves into the life of one Latino family living in New York.  I couldn’t help but envision young Yunior, the protagonist of Diaz’s text, as a student in that fourth grade bilingual class. I wonder how he would react to the art teacher in Illinois that refused to let students translate the instructions of an assignment from English to Spanish for each other. Yunior, an inventive writer and skilled observer, might have sat in silence with the rest of his class and wonder why his language was treated with such distain. While balancing the controlled chaos of his fractured family, the added stress of being misunderstood in the classroom could have been the breaking point for many children in Yunior’s shoes. Would this creative and precocious child be brought down by the wear and tear of an education system that favors English and seeks to churn out cookie-cutter learners?
When I looked into the faces of the students in my observation placement I couldn’t help but wonder what they thought of their heritage. With the media and the people that interact with them daily so set on demonizing and stereotyping their language, how must they perceive the world around them? The debate over bilingual education versus English immersion learning continues to heat up. Dual language programs provide a diverse range of students the skills to learn the basics in their native language and grow their English skills simultaneously. These kids have just the same right to learn as any Sally or Steve from down the block. The sooner our country abandons the belief that any one language is superior to another, the sooner we will find our children learning more about themselves, discovering more about the diversity of our nation, and benefiting from this knowledge. We cannot grow as a society until we realize that hope stems from our ability to embrace creativity, communication, and curiosity in our children. Junot Diaz helps to keep this promise alive by writing texts that break down stereotypes and humanize Latino America for readers.
 Junot Diaz, The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction (New York, Simon & Schuster), 244-255.