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!
“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?
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.
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.
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.