Gloria Yeomans-Maldonado, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Children’s Learning Institute at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
We asked scholars to describe some of the following questions: What drew you to do work on Latinx youth and families, or another topic that is important to you now? Who was an important mentor to you in this work, or was there a particularly influential study in the field or in a related field?
My interest in studying ethnic-racial identity really emerged from my personal experiences. I grew up in New Mexico with a single mom who was white and Choctaw. My dad is Mexican American. Ethnicity was really salient to me because I wasn’t exposed to a lot of Mexican culture in my immediate family, but at school there were all of these ethnically-based assumptions. In college I had a great opportunity to do a summer experience with Andrew Fuligni and that was my first realization that this was an area of research and I’ve stuck with it ever since. So my advice to emerging scholars would be to find something you are truly passionate about and that holds personal significance.
We invited scholars to describe a recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes them excited about it.
In a recent study with my colleagues (Yeomans-Maldonado. G., Mesa., C., & LARRC; in press), I used a growth modeling approach to look at the home literacy environment (HLE) and parental beliefs of Latinx families and how these factors matter for their children’s oral language growth. One of the contributions of this research is that we modeled Spanish-English bilingual children’s skills longitudinally, from kindergarten to Grade 3. As a field, much of what we know about the HLE and its association to children’s skills has been based on cross-sectional research. Although cross-sectional studies have helped us to build a robust understanding of the direction and magnitude of the HLE and child-skill association, they cannot speak to how HLE is related to children’s growth trajectories. In addition, in this recent study, we modeled children’s oral skills using both English oral language measures and Spanish-English bilingual measures. Our findings showed that the home literacy environment, specifically, families’ exposure to libraries and their reading habits, significantly and positively related to Spanish-English bilingual children’s oral vocabulary in kindergarten. At the same time, the variation in growth trajectories was not predicted by the home literacy environment. These findings imply that supporting and strengthening HLE around school entry is more consequential in boosting children’s oral skills early on than in boosting how fast children develop those skills. Thus, it is critically important to support and strengthen Latinx children’s HLEs around school entry.
Reflections on Latinx Caucus Experiences
Finally, we asked about experiences with the SRCD Latinx Caucus: Why is the caucus important and/or your views on the role of the Latinx Caucus vis-à-vis SRCD, research on child development, policy/practice.
To me, the Latinx Caucus is a way for fellow Latinx scholars to create community and camaraderie, not only at the SRCD meetings, but also outside of the meetings. I especially appreciate the presence and voice of the Latinx caucus in disseminating opportunities for its members as well as sharing the latest research and creating professional development opportunities. .