Throughout The Light in Their Eyes, I was thrilled by the continuity between Sonia Nieto’s description of multicultural education and Coalition educators’ focus on personalized, sustained and supportive relationships among teachers and students. Nieto, education professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, explores how teachers, through cultural connection and understanding, promote learning and equity among all students, especially bicultural students who have struggled academically.
Nieto provides a compelling, concise discussion of learning and inequality. But rather than critiquing how schools are failing students, The Light in Their Eyes emphasizes how teachers can use their comprehension of culture and language to create better conditions for learning. Nieto enriches her masterful synthesis of research on culture and learning with recollections of her own school and family experiences. She also includes excerpts of narratives by teachers reflecting on teaching with a focus on cultural competence.
Nieto’s prose soars as it creates a vision of the complex but possible task of making school meaningful for all students. In particular, her discussion of teaching and learning as a negotiation among students, families, teachers and schools serves as an eloquent argument for personalized education and the role of family and community in learning. Nieto concludes by noting, “At the core of this book is my powerful belief in the effect, positive or negative, that teachers can have on students through their interactions with them, their families, and their communities.” With that power in their hands, teachers will feel it’s both possible and imperative to create schools that engage and embrace students.
reviewed by Jill Davidson