Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Latino Children's Literature: 3 Things You Can Do to Make a Difference



In response to the New York Times article about the lack of Latino authors and books for children, Latina bloggers are launching a coordinated response that correctly identifies the problem and gives solutions. As aspiring authors, many of us have experienced first-hand being shut out by the mainstream publishing industry, not being given the time of day by the powerful editors of publishing houses. Some editors can't figure out our "niche"; some can't find Hispanic authors; some believe Latinos "don't read." They're WRONG. In a series of posts, we're exploring the different dimensions and demanding more Latin@s be mentored, published, and that the top of publishing houses becomes more diverse. To help the publishing houses and readers, we're providing our top picks of Latin@ writers. And we're not done.  Look out for forthcoming Google hangouts, twitter parties, and follow-up posts as this coordinated effort continues, working towards providing quality books for an emerging group of readers.


So a fantastic thing is happening.

As you can read above, the initial outburst over the New York Times article about the lack of Latino children's literature is changing into something more constructive. There is a group of us Latina bloggers who are raising our voices to prove to publishers that, yes, there is a need for Latino children's literature and that yes, we do buy books. (Seriously? I find it absurd that I even have to type that last part.)

I've already expressed my opinion about how these books are important for more reasons than just literacy. They provide children with a voice, motivation, and even inspiration to follow their dreams. They instill a sense of possibility and hope, and they help to boost a child's self-esteem giving them the courage to pursue those possibilities.

AND I've also explained why we aren't seeing more Latino children's literature being published today. Even though the publishing industry started an attempt to produce more stories for Latino children by Latino authors, their marketing strategy failed and the timing was wrong. The explosion of titles occurred just before the recession hit, and as we all know, Latinos were the hardest hit group. In fact, last year, the Pew Research Center released a report saying that 6.1 million Latino children live in poverty - a record-breaking number. So it is really no surprise that these children struggle with literacy.

It's hard to make books a priority when you're wondering if you have enough money to buy groceries.

Consider these problems

Parents who are struggling to make ends meet and work more than one job, may not be able to find the time to read to their children. Reading to your children is a major technique for developing literacy skills.

Those who do find the time, probably don't have the extra cash to buy books to read to their children. The more books in your home, the greater the chances of your child’s academic achievement.

Those who do have the cash, are not very likely to buy children's books. (Though they might be more inclined to do so if they were to discover some of the Latino children' literature which centers around characters and lifestyles to which they themselves can relate!)

But they can't find any of the Latino children's literature on the shelves of their local bookstores.

Many Latino families don't use their local libraries, and even those that do, sometimes can't find Latino children's literature in stock.

Latino children are more likely to attend low-income schools which struggle to find funding for school library resources (and for purchasing Latino children's lit).


Now consider these solutions

Some libraries across the country are developing bilingual programs and are investing in titles for children by Latino authors, but more need to follow suit. AND they need to find a way to reach out to the Latino community and encourage them to use the library by showing them how it works.

Latino parents need access to the bilingual or bicultural books that they are more likely to take the time to read to their kids.

Major booksellers such as Barnes & Noble, need to carry a healthy selection of Latino children's literature from publishers like Groundwood Books, Lorito Books, Children's Book Press, Piñata Books, and others.

Some bigger publishers such as Candlewick Press and Penguin Books are venturing into this area, but they need to be encouraged to invest in more Latino authors from diverse backgrounds.

All publishers need to rethink their marketing strategy. It's not just the big bookstore chains that should carry these titles. We need to think about the stores that are actually found in Latino communities and reach out to them.

HERE'S WHAT YOU CAN DO

We're really tired of hearing the same old line: Latinos don't buy books.

That's a load of caca. (Well, it is!)

So we're reaching out to you to help change this situation. Here's what you can do:

1) Save the banner at the top of this post and put it on your own blog or Facebook page. Make it known that you support Latino authors and illustrators, and that you want to see Latino children's literature available in stores near you.

2) Join us in showing publishers that - Yes! We really DO buy books! To help you with our Latino Children's Book Buy Out, we've all listed some of our favorite books and authors on our blogs. We hope you'll consider buying at least one of these titles to give as a gift this holiday season - or keep it for yourself!

3) Talk to your friends and encourage them to do the same. If you write about it on your own site, add your link at the bottom of this post so we can all read it and share it!

Without further ado, here are some of our (my kids included) favorite authors and books. It was really hard to keep it down to 10 books. The link will take you to our sister site's (the LBBC's) online bookshop, but you can easily buy these directly from Amazon.com, if you prefer...



Written by Pat Mora
Illustrated by Magaly Morales

























Floating on Mama's Song
by Laura Lacamara


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