Young Latino Readers Search for Themselves in Books

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

books books (shutterhacks/flickr/flickr)

Latino students now make up almost 25 percent of the country's public school population. But despite their numbers, young Latino readers still aren't seeing themselves in the books they read while at school.

There are some exceptions. Of course books about the cartoon character Dora continue to be very popular, but most of the books most-read by children in elementary schools still predominantly feature white protagonists.

It's an issue that Motoko Rich has written about. She reports on education for our partner, The New York Times.


Motoko Rich

Comments [3]

Lala from nyc

Remember the Seinfeld episode Elaine scored poorly on an IQ test, she excused her poor performance on "gender-bias" to which Seinfeld mockingly responded with "Well, maybe the test was gender bias, you know a lot of questions on hunting and testicles..."

I grew up reading books overseas. I was a young teenager reading books on the complicated lives of adults living in other countries from mine, practicing the Christian faith living heterosexual lives - it was all different. I never said to myself these books are about Christians, I won't read them anymore...or these books are about heterosexuals, I don't identify with the subject matter. I just loved reading books.

Books and reading is about stimulating the imagination and more importantly, developing a universal empathy. Reading isn't about looking for a carbon replica of yourself in the pages.

This notion that some minority students are failing b/c of a lack of racial representation is border-line racist and I find it insults the book readers out there.

If you care so much about race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, sexuality - perhaps books aren't your thing and you should pick up the remote instead.

Dec. 05 2012 03:48 PM
Ann Potter from Massachusetts

I was part of bunch of designers who designed children's textbooks for Spanish Reading for Hougton Mifflin in the early 1990's. This was for the state of California who had a large Hispanic population and all were ahead of the curve when it came to trying to educate the young and help them learn to read. There were plenty of Hispanics shown in the books and lots of stories from different cultures. We also used illustrators of Hispanic background when possible.

We heard some criticism from bigots who thought everyone should only learn English and here we were attempting to simply HELP them learn to read.

The series was pretty successful in California and some other states.

Dec. 05 2012 02:22 PM
DB from Oregon

I did a lot of head-shaking during the conversation with Ms. Rich: head-shaking from side-to-side; not up-and-down. The only statement that made sense to me was the one citing limited research on the matter of reading capacity and culturally-specific primers. I learned to read when I was three because I wanted to read. I did not "see" myself as anything but a reader. I grew up in an immigrant neighborhood where everyone spoke something besides English at home and English at school. What, exactly, is the problem with being bilingual? And 'Dick and Jane' were these alien beings who were blond and called their parents 'Mother' and 'Father,' and had grandparents who lived on a farm. Our grandparents lived in an apartment in another borough accessible by subway or downstairs in the same house. Do you have to be Russian to appreciate Tolstoy? Do you have to be Italian to appreciate Umberto Eco? Learning to read is opening a door, not the house itself.

Dec. 05 2012 01:47 PM

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