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HARRY POTTER BOOKS HELP SPANISH SPEAKERS LEARN ENGLISH.

Byline: Lisa M. Sodders Staff Writer

SAN FERNANDO - Harry Potter may be a fictional character, but he's is helping bridge the gap between real-life Spanish-speaking parents and their English-speaking children at San Fernando Middle School.

About 15 parents gather each Thursday morning at the school with Principal Eloisa Marquez to read British author J.K. Rowling's wildly popular stories about the boy wizard in translated Spanish editions.

``They can discuss it with their children and even have arguments about it,'' said Marquez, who started the program in March. ``They enjoy it to the point where they don't want to leave (the school).''

Marquez also uses the books to help parents with their English. She gives them vocabulary lists and homework - often the same assignment as their children.

And the results have been nothing short of magical as parents have suggested additional projects and become more involved at the school.

For Cinco de Mayo last week, for example, the parents researched regional foods of Mexico and brought samples for the children, donned native costumes and set up elaborate displays with information about each region.

Their next project is a Harry Potter quilt.

Maria Estrada, 46, of San Fernando, has read all five of the Harry Potter books, and enjoys discussing them with her 12-year-old daughter, Jocelyn.

``I like everything,'' she said. ``The history, the imagination, the magic. Sometimes I don't understand something, and she explains it to me, and I explain it to her.''

Verova Vivanco, 44, of San Fernando, said her favorite character is ``El profesor de la quimica,'' or Potions Master Snape, Harry's nemesis. The surly and sarcastic Snape is different from the other teachers, who tend to be nice, she explained in Spanish.

Marquez herself is a tremendous Harry Potter fan whose office is crammed with all things Harry: several wands, a Golden Snitch lamp, Harry Potter toothpaste, and even a Sorting Hat, handmade by her 75-year-old mother, who also is reading the books - in Spanish.

One of the reasons the Harry Potter books lend themselves so well to education is that children are enthusiastic about the series, and the books feature problem-solving skills and other positive concepts that teachers can build on, said Chad Fenwick, physical education adviser for K-12 for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

If they get parents involved in the school, that's another plus.

``Parents are a big key in the education of the child,'' said Fenwick, who has read the books himself. ``We can only do so much, but if the parents are supportive of the school and what the child is learning, then the child takes much more interest in it.''

Lisa M. Sodders, (818) 713-3663

lisa.sodders(at)dailynews.com

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Photo:

Principal Eloisa Marquez wears her Sorting Hat in her office with parents and kids in the Harry Potter reading club. From left are Alma Rangel with daughter Jazel, Maria Estrada, and Verova Vivanco with Pilar Gonzalez.

Tom Mendoza/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 8, 2005
Words:494
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