Literacy begins in the home and transfers from parent to child. Parents who begin to read to their children from a very young age make great strides in the child’s educational and social evolution later on. Reading to a child promotes successful outcomes for literacy even before they start their first day of kindergarten. This is true for families of all backgrounds and cultures. Parents who instill the fundamentals of reading and storytelling into their children are already developing crucial language and comprehension skills that will serve their children well once they enter the school system. It’s most helpful if the books reflect familiar experiences of diverse readers.
Unfortunately, studies have found that book reading and storytelling are not practiced with much repetition among Hispanic Spanish-speaking families. This can put their children at a disadvantage, not just in schools among classmates who also speak the language, but when Hispanic children enter the U.S. public school system. Having the core concepts of literacy given to them in their native language is a prerequisite component to learning the secondary language that is being taught to them by English speaking teachers.
This disadvantage can be exacerbated by a significant lack of reading materials and resources for Hispanics and their families to choose from. The solution to this problem lies in multicultural books in parent and family engagement at school. Until recently, this was a highly underserved segment of the book-buying community. However, with 25% of the overall U.S. school population, and with 53% of the student body in California and 51% of the K-12 students in Texas classified as Latino, that is a large portion of children who may not have suitable books to help them improve their literacy skills.
Bilingual books incorporate text in both Spanish and English so that parents who have a limited English vocabulary can learn more while also understanding the story in their native tongue. Children can practice their English skills at home, which has been shown to be beneficial in the learning of the language. For both parties, literacy becomes an easier and more enjoyable proposition.
At Lectura Books we start with cultural relevance. Our books and parent programs provide families with opportunities to be visible in the curriculum because we place them at the center. We make the connection between their cultural background and experience and what they are learning. Cultural relevancy is essential in education today since it recognizes the diverse experiences of ELL families, creates lasting connections between home and school, and encourages more parent engagement, which leads to greater academic success.