Bilingual Therapies always has a wonderful time celebrating Read Across America, but this year was extra special as the theme was “Celebrating a Nation of Diverse Readers”. I loved to read as a child and vividly remember reading stories from the Childcraft book “Children Everyone”. This book had stories of children from around the world and as I read the stories, I was transported to faraway places where I learned about the languages they spoke and how they lived. Reflecting on this, I now realize that this was my first experience with culturally and linguistically diverse literature. My parents fostered my love of reading by taking me to the library and I checked out so many different types of books from mysteries like “Someone is Hiding on Alcatraz Island” to books that I later found out they were banned in some places (“Summer of My German Soldier” and “Outsiders”).
However, I honestly don’t remember reading a book that had a Latina as the central character of the story until I read “House on Mango Street” as a teenager. As I read the book, I found characters that had Spanish names and used words that I used like “papa” and “chanclas”. There were themes that I recognized, like lighting candles and playing outside for hours with a mix of siblings, cousins, and friends. There were other themes that I hadn’t lived but had watched others around me go through. Reading this book was a different experience, like walking through a neighborhood that I was familiar with. As a teen getting ready to leave home to go to college, I empathized with Esperanza who dreamed that “Someday I will pack my bag of books and paper. One day I will say goodbye…”.
As an avid reader, it took a long time to find a book that was about a Mexican-American girl. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, as only 13% of the children’s books published in the last 24 years contain multicultural content. There has been a recent push to publish multicultural content, but a study done by Lee & Low indicates that only seven percent of new children’s books published in 2017 were authored by Black, Native or Latinx individuals. Fear not story lovers, even though publishers need to do better, we as consumers of diverse stories can also work toward ensuring that these books are highlighted and not only dusted off when we celebrate a heritage month. Here are some ideas of places to look for diverse books to add to your bookshelves in your workplace or at home:
Books for Children and Young Adults
- 1,000 Black Girl Books Resource Guide
- Disability in Kidlit
- Children’s Books with Latino and Hispanic Characters
- American Indians in Children’s Literature
- Diversity in YA
- Rich in Color
- Latinxs in Kid Lit
- The Brown Bookshelf
Books for Adults
- A Mighty Girl’s 2018 Books of the Year
- Popular Cultural Diversity Books
- Popular Multicultural Fiction Books
- Audible Latino-Latinx Authors
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