As published on Huffington Post
March 31, 2015
Many Americans are familiar with well-known mainstream children’s books such as the Dr. Seuss series, Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are. But what about Americans who come from another culture, speak another language or are bilingual? What children’s books are there for them and their families?
This group, until recently, was especially missing from children’s literature, often referred to as kidlit in the publishing world. These are the families whose parents’ first language is Spanish and whose children are learning English in school. When you add in the fact that the majority of the 54 million Latinos in the U.S. are bilingual and yet very few children’s books are bilingual you have a tremendous gap in books that can speak to this community and its culture, particularly the parents. That means they don’t see themselves in the children’s books distributed at their schools, stocked in their local libraries or sold in bookstores. The effect of this invisibility and absence in children’s books is dramatic and negatively affects the self-esteem of these children.
Nationally, nearly 25 percent of all K-12 students are Latino and the percentage is only growing. In California, the most populous state in the country, Latinos comprise 53 percent of all students in K-12. Latino families like these–who live all across the country from the Southeast to the West Coast–are often bilingual with Spanish being the main home language for many.
And, guess what? Until now there have been very few children’s books for this huge population of children who want to see themselves and their families in children’s books.
Finally, one publisher is doing something about it. In the early 2000s, Katherine Del Monte founded Lectura Books and since then has been publishing bilingual books aimed at this large and increasingly expanding population. Her desire has been for parents and their kids to learn together how to love literature and to see themselves in the literature. These families are often marginalized in our society and their stories untold. To remedy this, she started Family Stories for Parent Involvement.