Providing “Cultural Relevance” to Young Latino Readers

Posted by Big Universe on Dec 18, 2012 7:00:33 PM

Anyone who knows my nine-year-old, knows that Harry Potter is a larger-than-life character to him. Our nightly bedtime routine includes reading the series, and we recently took our boys to Manhattan to see the Harry Potter exhibit. This past Halloween, my son was the muggle-version of the series main character. He prepped for this costume by growing out his crew-cut hair this summer to further resemble the character in time for October 31. A fellow eye-glass wearer, he was happy to wear his glasses and find similar clothing from his own closet. Clearly he identifies with this literary character. I don't mind because it fuels his love for reading - and makes wearing eye glasses "cool."

However, for some Latinos, finding a main character - who is not Caucasian - to relate to is difficult. A recent New York Times article, written by Motoko Rich, points out the absence of Latino main characters in young reader books do not provide “cultural relevance” to Latino children, providing statistics on multicultural publishing.

Identifying with characters in books is a surefire way to increase motivation to read, a struggle for Caucasians, Latinos and others. Big Universe contains of library of Bilingual books, which help English as a Second Language (ESL) readers. For example, The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos and illustrated by Rafael Lopez “incorporat[es] Spanish words, adding a new one in place of the English word from the previous page, this book makes learning the language easy and fun.”

In Big Universe’s Cultural/Diversity category, with over 140 titles to choose from, children can choose books with main characters with whom they can identify with - culturally. For example, A Day in Our Lives chronicles two cousins, one whom lives in Mexico and another in Chicago, Illinois, while reinforcing time-telling skills. Additionally, many of the selections will increase desire to learn about other cultures. It’s a win-win for reading interest and appreciating culturally diversity.

Topics: Classroom Ideas, Literacy

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