Monday, December 10, 2012

Latino Children's Literature - It's About More Than Just Reading

As most of you probably already know, an article came out last week in the New York Times talking about the lack of Latino children's literature available to Latino students. This is an issue that I have spent a lot of time working on, starting with MommyMaestra's sister blog, the Latin Baby Book Club. In recent months, things have been quiet over there because, quite honestly, I'm just one person (and a homeschooling mother) and my plate is full. I have been seriously considering merging the blog with MommyMaestra, and that option remains on the table, so some big changes may be coming soon.

But back to the article...I expressed some of my views about it this weekend in an article on NBC Latino, as well as on HuffPo Live with Alicia Menendez. If you read the article, you probably have a good understanding of what the market has done in the last few years and where the disconnect occurs.
I've frequently heard publishing companies say that there's no market because Latino families don't buy books. What?? I say in disbelief looking around my home, in which almost every room has a set of bookshelves or two... or nine (yay for home libraries!).

I also asked you, dear readers, what your opinions were on this whole subject. Here's what some of you said...

Now let's get back to the focus of the New York Times article which was on how having access to Latino children's literature could improve literacy rates among Latino students.

Let's talk about that a minute. Does giving a Latino child a book about another Latino child instantly cause that child to start reading better? Of course not. Could a Latino child learn to read without them? Sure! I DID!

But here's my take:

1) Latino children's literature is a valuable tool for developing literacy skills. As I said in my NBC Latino article, one key doesn't fit every lock, just as one book [series] doesn't fit every child. My friend, Marta, shared a post giving an excellent example of how it is important to match your child's reading selection with their interest. In her article, Marta shared how she used the Tin-Tin books to develop her reluctant reader's interest in books. Guess what? It worked.

So here we have thousands of young Latino children in school. Am I to believe that having access to books about children that look like them and experience similar situations will have NO IMPACT on them? That they will have NO INTEREST in a book about someone who looks, acts, and maybe even speaks like them? Ummm...sorry. I'm not buying that. When I was growing up, I gobbled up stories about girls with long, black hair who loved books and the outdoors. If I'd had books about Latino children, I would have consumed them, too. The point is that our children need to have the option to read a book with characters who reflect their own faces available to them. If they aren't interested, fine. But what if they are?

2) Access to Latino children's literature could increase the likelihood of parental involvement in the reading process. Do you think that a parent is more likely to sit and read a book with their child if it is about a subject they know well, or one they don't? Well, sure, they might read both, but which one are they more likely to be interested in reading and talking about? I know that I am more likely to be enthusiastic about sitting and reading Carmen Lomas Garza's Family Pictures to my children because almost every story in this book calls to my mind a childhood memory (some I had forgotten!) that I am eager to share with my kids.

3) Access to Latino children's literature can improve academic performance in Latino children. Oh, YES IT CAN!  Studies have shown that "Latino adolescents in the U.S. who maintain ties to their culture of origin are more likely to develop healthy behaviors than their peers who do not. Latino adolescents with strong awareness of their family’s culture reported higher self esteem, fewer social problems and less hopelessness, aggression, and substance abuse." Students who take ethnic studies classes about their own Latino heritage, tend to see an improvement in their grades and academic performance. Why? It's simple, when you learn about the wonderful accomplishments of people just like you, you are more inclined to see the endless possibilities that await you. AND you are willing to work harder to make your own dreams come true.

Giving little Linda or Manuel access to Latino children's literature isn't just about learning to read. It's about fighting negative stereotypes that they see in the media every day. It's about offering them hope, motivation, and the courage to realize that they, too, can do great things.

More for you tomorrow about what you can do to make a difference.

Un abrazo!


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