One of the highlights of 2016 was to meet Matt de la Peña, the first Latino author to be awarded the prestigious John Newbery Medal for children’s literature. (You can read more about my experience here).
This New York Times bestseller author started his speech telling us that no one in his house read to him as a child so for many years he struggled to read at grade level. Sadly, this shattered his confidence and contributed to view himself as an “unintelligent person,” an idea that stuck with him for a long time.
Things changed slowly after a college professor invited him to read “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker. Through this book, he discovered that reading provided him a place to feel safe.
Today Matt de la Peña spends his career promoting the importance of reading in underprivileged areas because he is conscious of the powerful function literature can serve “especially in the lives of kids growing up the way I did”.
There are many Latino kids like Matt growing up without the opportunity to be read to. For example, this study tells us how immigrant parents are less likely to share books than native-born parents. Although there are factors to take into consideration like language barrier, low education levels, low household income and even cultural differences in child rearing, I think this is a problem and we as a community need to do something about it.
According Pew Hispanic Center, Latino students are the fastest-growing segment of the school population. Investing in their future through literacy and reading skills is investing in the future of our country.
RELATED POST: Why I Send My Kids To Dual Language Programs
Three Ways to Raise Latino Kids Who Read
Promoting the Benefits of Reading
If we want to raise Latino kids who read, we need start educating their mamas about the benefits of reading to our children. Many of us come from places where reading is not highly promoted or encouraged so in order to start a revolution, we need to be more vocal about its importance.
This is why I am loving Moms Rising’s MomsReading initiative where a group of moms who blog are addressing this issue through our platforms hoping that we can inspire and motivate other moms to read to their children.
So what are the benefits of reading to children?
There are many! And these ones are a few of them:
- Promotes language development.
- Encourages critical thinking and imagination.
- Enhances emotional intelligence.
- Fosters empathy and respect for diversity.
- Plus, it is a wonderful opportunity to bond and snuggle with that beautiful child of ours!
Promoting Bilingual Storytimes
A few years ago, I decided to talk to a local library that serves a high Latino population about the possibility to start a bilingual storytime. The coordinator gladly supported the idea, but warned me that it was not going to be successful because “Latino kids don’t read“.
As a Latina mother, her remark hurt to the core. I decided to prove her wrong. Time and a lot of promotion helped to increase the attendance to our local bilingual storytime. But we never made
it to the same numbers of the non-bilingual storytimes! I still felt the efforts were worth it. Why? Because it started a culture of reading among a few mothers.
Offering bilingual story times provides opportunities for immigrant families to learn about the library resources for early literacy. For the non immigrant family, a bilingual storytime serves as an amazing resource to teach children a second language. Go here to learn how to get started with bilingual storytimes.
Encourage the Publication of Multicultural Children’s Books
In a period where our country is divided with hate speech, books that instill children with a deeper appreciation for diversity, promote tolerance and break stereotypes are necessary.
Sometimes the lack of familiar images could be an obstacle for children to become readers. Children all over the world should see themselves and their cultures within the pages of a book, and have the opportunity to read about other children from other cultures and traditions.
Find below a few suggestions of bilingual books that you can start reading to your children and read here why I think our kids need more access to multicultural books.