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.


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, if you prefer...

Written by Pat Mora
Illustrated by Magaly Morales

Floating on Mama's Song
by Laura Lacamara


  1. Monica, I am Hispanic, a retired 1st grade teacher (for 26 yrs.) and an author of 2 New Mexico children's books. I am so glad I stumbled onto your blog and article.
    My published books are "THE EYES OF THE WEAVER/Los Ojos del Tejedor" and "THE KEY TO GRANDPA'S HOUSE"
    Both are published by The University of New Mexico Press.
    I would love to have a conversation with you, when you have time.
    My very reason for writing is to introduce children to tradition, family and culture. I encourage them to listen and write down stories of their elders.
    I hope to hear from you.

    1. Cristina, thank you for sharing your lovely books! Would love to connect. I'll message you.

    2. Great! One can order my books through Amazon but I also sell them myself on my
      esty shop called "crismadeit"
      I look forward to hearing from you.

  2. Excellent points Monica!

    I live in The Bronx and there is only one bookstore in the entire borough. ONE! It's insane and it's not near a train, so it's not exactly easy to get to. It's so frustrating. The reason is that booksellers believe Latino's/African Americans don't buy books. But I take the train every day and I a lot of people reading.

    I love your book suggestions - I don't have any of them. Will be adding your suggestions to our home library soon!

    1. That is the problem, no? There are not enough bookstores in Latino communities! Glad you liked the suggestions. There are so many, it's hard to choose just a few.

  3. Just ordered 3 of these suggestions! Gracias!

    1. Yay! GOOD for you! Let's show the publishers we mean business.

  4. Monica, I just reread the article from the NY Times. My children's book, "The Eyes of the Weaver" was published by Houghton Mifflin (it's own reader) and also by Scott Forseman. Scott Forseman fully translated the story into Spanish for their Lectura series...
    Imagine this happening to a first grade teacher, me!
    The Eyes of the Weaver is a true story about my grandpa who was a master weaver of Chimayó blankets in Northern New Mexico.

    1. Cristina, I can't find an email for you. Won't you please contact me here?

  5. I LOVE all your book suggestions. I teach Spanish to 4th and 5th graders and am very excited about ordering all these for my students. PTA request here I come!!!!

    1. Great! And I love YOURS! Thanks for sharing your post in our link-up above!

  6. Hi Monica! I feel like I've been under a rock for the past few weeks since I did not hear/read about this until now. Thanks for the suggestions, I have 4 of those, but I'll be sure to purchase the others. I will write a post next week on my blog about this, I think it's important to spread the word (and I'm grabbing the image right now!)
    I hope we are going towards a better place in terms of Children's books by Latinos, like you say, many of us (including myself) are working towards becoming a published author since we need our stories out there for our children to read and see themselves in them.

  7. I'm not Latina, I'm Filipino, but I live in Los Angeles and definitely have an eye out for Latino/a books. I've even met Laura Lacamara!

    Others I have met and whose books I just love are Christina Diaz Gonzalez (A Thunderous Whisper), Jen Cervantes (Tortilla Sun);I have not met in person but read their books and "met" online Sonia Manzano (aka Maria from Sesame Street! and author of The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano) and Bettina Restrepo (Illegal). They are all great writers, published by big houses like Knopf and Scholastic, and I recommend them whether readers are Latina or not! But I agree, we need more. There's some shared history between Filipinos and Latinos so I love to read them and relate to them very well. There's a lot more of it around than Filipino juvenile literature in mainstream American publishing!

    Thanks for this post. I'll make sure to link back to it.

  8. I am a former principal of a Dual Language (Spanish) Immersion School and currently working with an elementary school that is 98% Latino and nearly 100% free and reduced lunch. Both schools had a need for literature either in Spanish and/or books written in English but with a positive portrayal of Latino culture. However, both schools had very different access to books and funding for books (both at home and at school). When I find books that are high quality and positively portray Latino culture & heritage, I am a huge advocate (and I know and have hand sold copies of books by Laura Lacamara, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, and Jen Cervantes along with several other authors). I have spoken with Scholastic about the need for books representing the Latino experience (and a wide variety of experiences - not all have the same story), as well as, having quality translations of chapter books/novels (from English to Spanish) as well as books (novels/chapter books) written originally in Spanish for Dual Language Programs. As we continue to make the need known and to advocate, I am certain things will change.


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