Lulu Delacre, Bilingual Children’s Book Author & Illustrator Says, “The Power is in Numbers”

by Melanie Edwards on April 15, 2013 · 15 comments

in Giveaways,guest-posts,Latino Culture

We love to read in our house and thankfully, this has helped encourage a love of reading for our children. Being a multicultural household means we often seek books with characters our children can relate to and “see” themselves in. That’s why I’m loving the latest effort by my friends at Latinas 4 Latino Literature, in which they are celebrating Latino authors and literature. This month, they’re specifically honoring Latino children’s literature through the Día Blog Hop and a major giveaway! Read on for a piece written by Puerto Rican children’s book author and illustrator, Lulu Delacre, on the state of Latino children’s literature. Be sure to scroll down for details on the giveaway – it’s a great one!

Lulu Delacre, Children's Book Author & Illustrator

Qué linda manita
que tiene el bebé
que linda que mona
que bonita es…

Recently I attended a baby shower where I happened to be the only Latina present. As I watched the mother-to-be opening gifts I counted about twenty children’s books. Being a children’s book author and illustrator myself, I immediately noticed the prevalence of Dr. Seuss’ titles and the absence of Mother Goose Rhymes volumes. I wondered, why aren’t babies being sung traditional folklore these days?

I certainly remembered that 27 years ago I felt the urge to run to the public library in search of a book for my bebita, with the nursery rhymes of my childhood in Puerto Rico, illustrated with pictures of Latino kids. I had illustrated Mother Goose Rhymes myself and I envied the American mother who could choose from so many beautiful volumes to share with her child. Back then when 5,000 children’s books were published annually, I found not one book to fulfill my earnest desire. Hence, I created one, found a visionary editor from a major publishing house, and can say that if Arroz con leche: Popular Songs and Rhymes from Latin America is still in print for its 25th birthday next year, it will be because there are thousands of Latinas yearning for the same books now, like I did back then.

But suddenly, I got curious; had the amount of offerings for young Latino children increased in the past three decades? If you search “Mother Goose Rhymes,” under Books on amazon.com, you will find 2,346 titles. However, if you type in “Latino nursery rhymes,” this search yields 20 titles. Yes, just 20 titles. So, in a country in which the Pew Hispanic Center reports that 25% of the elementary public school students in 2011 were Hispanic, the ratio of books for the youngest of these children that reflect their parents’ heritage is less than 10 in one thousand. Does this make sense to you?

Lulu Delacre - Arrorró, Mi Niño: Latino Lullabies and Gentle Games

Since the publication of The New York Times article “For Latino Readers, an Image is Missing,” much has been discussed on listserves, blogs and in public forums about the paucity of children’s books by and about Latinos. Although I agree with this view, the truth is that not only Latino children need access to the books that connect them to their parents’ heritage, make their lives richer, and allow them to feel that they are a part of the American fabric. Their non-Latino friends need this literature as well. It is in learning about one another that the “otherness” fades. It is in learning of each other’s traditions, culture, and heritage, that the fear of the unknown dissipates and we encourage tolerance and acceptance.

I frequently share with school children of all ethnicities the game-songs and gentle games that our mothers and grandmothers handed down to us and that are featured in some of my books. The positive responses I receive from kids of ALL ethnicities never cease to surprise me. They are thrilled to come up front and have me tickle them at the end of “Este dedito compró un huevito” or “sube, sube la hormiguita.” They love to hold hands with me in a big circle to play the “Shake it, Morena!” and “Arroz con leche” game songs.

When I expressed my concern about the dearth of nursery rhyme books to the early childhood educator seated next to me at the baby shower, she confided, “Dr. Seuss is what little ones relate to, now. The content of Mother Goose Rhymes is old-fashioned.” Perhaps. But in the case of our Latin American nursery rhymes and games, I believe that their content, rhythm, and poetry is as relevant to today’s children as it was to kids a hundred years ago. The proof is in the faces and reactions of the scores of children that sing and dance with me at American public schools.

Lulu Delacre - Arrorró, Mi Niño: Latino Lullabies and Gentle Games

We should celebrate our language, heritage, and traditions. We should share them with our neighbors and friends. But especially when there is such a disparity between the Latino population in American public schools and the books that honor their culture, we should all hurry to buy a book that reflects the Latino experience. For if each one of us purchased just one book, the demand would prompt publishers to contract more Latino titles and we would begin to change the unbelievable ratio of 10 to 1,000!

En la unión está la fuerza.

Lulu Delacre is an award-winning bilingual author and illustrator of 34 books. Visit her at www.luludelacre.com

All illustrations and photos © Lulu Delacre.

The Giveaway

L4LL has put together a wonderful collection of Latino children’s literature to be given to a school or public library. Many of the books were donated by the authors and illustrators participating in this blog hop. You can read a complete list of titles (as well as the blog hop schedule) here on the L4LL website.

To enter your school library or local library in the giveaway, simply leave a comment below.

The deadline to enter is 11:59 pm EST, Monday, April 29, 2013. The winner will be chosen using Random.org and announced on the L4LL website on April 30th, Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros, and will be contacted via email – so be sure to leave a valid email address in your comment! (If we have no way to contact you, we’ll have to choose someone else!)

By entering this giveaway, you agree to the Official Sweepstakes Rules. No purchase required. Void where prohibited.

¡Buena suerte!

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anani Vasquez April 15, 2013 at 1:25 pm

We have a copy of Arroz con leche. I actually bought it for my bilingual classroom and then brought it home for my boys when they were born. I had to search for Spanish nursery rhymes and lullabies, so any books and tapes/CDs I could find, I grabbed. The boys are 7 and 8 and they still ask me to sing those songs to them, among others, before bedtime!

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2 Jodi Monroy April 15, 2013 at 1:27 pm

I agree that it’s a shame that traditional nursery rhymes (both in Spanish and English) are becoming obsolete and hard to find. It is up to us to reverse this trend!

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3 Lulu Delacre April 15, 2013 at 5:03 pm

The dearth of this books is something we can change together!
Several lists compiled by children’s literature specialists may help you find the right book for your child:
Américas Book Award from the Consortium of Latin American Studies Program of the University of Wisconsin
Colorín, Colorado from WETA
Pura Belpré Award from ALA ( American Library Association)

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4 Lulu Delacre April 15, 2013 at 5:11 pm

The dearth of these books is something we can change together!

Several lists compiled by children’s literature specialists may help you find the right book for your child:
• Américas Book Award from the Consortium of Latin American Studies Program of the University of Wisconsin
• Colorín, Colorado from WETA
• Pura Belpré Award from ALA ( American Library Association)

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5 Margaret Elkins April 15, 2013 at 10:17 pm

My school library could use some Latino books. It is difficult to find them.

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6 Nadya Sustache April 15, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Lulu, your baby shower anecdote reminded me that each one of us has purchasing power to wield wisely. In turn, your books fill gaps that no one else had (or is) meeting – beyond the nursery rhymes and games, I can think of how the Rafi and Rosi early readers blend culture, science and sibling relationships in a very appealing package – and still today a rarity in Spanish. Your books hold a special place in our home library and I hope to have to make space for more.

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7 Lulu Delacre April 16, 2013 at 7:13 am

Nadia,
Thank you for your kind words. True, I tend to create books that fill a niche in the market. The third Rafi and Rosi book never saw the light of day because the first two were not selling as many copies as the publisher wanted. Now, both Rafi and Rosi titles are out-of-print. Another reason why we, the readers of this blog, should all go buy one book that celebrates the Latino culture. So other very valid books do not go out of print. We should make our actions match our thoughts. Look for my latest, How Far Do You Love Me? It will be out in Spanish later on as well.

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8 MARGA Bish April 16, 2013 at 5:55 am

As I guest reader in my son’s school I chose to read them a book in Spanish. They loved to hear the book read in Spanish, and also discover that they could actually understand more than they thought was possible. Thanks a lot for promoting latino literature.

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9 Tracy López / Latinaish.com April 16, 2013 at 9:46 am

I love what Lulu had to say and I love her illustrations!

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10 Vanessa, DeSuMama April 16, 2013 at 10:37 am

I love Mother Goose! Her rhymes will never go out of style for us :) Beautiful post!

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11 Alma Ramos-McDermott April 16, 2013 at 5:39 pm

I would love to win these books for the Picture Books for Older Readers section I am trying to build in both of my inner city high schools in Boston. The students would LOVE them, and so would their teachers. Thanks for the opportunity to win.

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12 Lizette Flores April 16, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Orgullo Latino ! I will def go to a book store or order her books for my girls. Lovely books.

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13 Consuelo April 17, 2013 at 7:49 am

As an Early Childhood Educator, Infant Toddler Specialist…I search for books that reflect the programs, children and families I work with and the opportunity to share other diverse cultures through books, cuentos, songs, rhymes etc., would love win these books for a teen parent program!

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14 Amanda Baughman April 20, 2013 at 6:59 pm

I would love to add these to our school’s library – CC Ronnow Elementary in Las Vegas, NV!

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15 Sandy Carrillo April 28, 2013 at 11:02 pm

I remember learning songs and rhymes from my mother and then teaching them to my child when I became a mother. Lulu, you are absolutely right, we need to support the work of our Latino authors and we need to find ways, such as this blog, to spread the word to make our books more visible and accessible for everyone!

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