Cesar Chavez: The Early Years

Cesar Chavez: The Early Years
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 3 to 5
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.73

     challenging words:    unbearable, wage, union, full-time, entire, settled, while, longer, adult, schools, picking, pounds, miserable, born, fellow, restroom
     content words:    Cesar Chavez, Great Depression, San Jose, When Cesar

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Cesar Chavez: The Early Years
By Erin Horner

1     Cesar Chavez was born in Arizona on March 31, 1927. While the Chavez family was not rich, they made enough money to survive. They owned a small store and lived on a nice farm. Their life was stable...until the Great Depression hit. When the economy collapsed, people all over the nation lost their jobs. Suddenly, many people did not have enough money to buy food and other goods. Regular customers could no longer afford to shop at the Chavez family's store. When the store stopped making money, Cesar's parents lost it. Not only was the family store in trouble, so was the family farm. A terrible drought struck Arizona during this time. It dried up the river that watered the family's land. Without water the family farm could not survive. Not long after they lost their store, the Chavez family lost their farm as well. Mr. Chavez decided it was time for his family to leave Arizona. He moved them to California. Cesar's father was told that he could find farm work there. This decision to move changed Cesar's life. It would change the lives of thousands of farm workers in the future, too!
2     When they first moved, Cesar's father found work for the entire family. They were hired to pick peas. The family spent all day in the blazing heat, bent over picking the vegetables. A full hamper of peas weighed twenty-five pounds. The family earned twenty cents for each hamper. That was not a fair wage! With such little pay, Cesar's family could not afford a real home. They could barely afford food! This migrant life was difficult. When Cesar's father heard about job opportunities in other places, the family left one city and drove to a new one. Unfortunately, they didn't always find what they were looking for. Sometimes they got to a new farm only to learn that there was no work available. On other occasions Cesar's family would arrive at a farm and work all day, only to learn that the job did not pay as much money as they had hoped. While hard to believe, sometimes growers hired the Chavez family and then stole money from them or cheated them out of their promised earnings!
3     Moving from farm to farm meant that Cesar attended many different schools. This was hard for several reasons. First, it was difficult for Cesar to always be the new student. Second, changing schools was tough because the Chavez family only spoke Spanish at home. At school, however, Cesar was forced to speak English.

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