Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Moving Beyond SkippyJon Jones: Integrating Books with an Authentic Hispanic Lens

Hispanic Heritage Month runs each year from September 15-October 15.  This marks a wonderful opportunity each year to celebrate the contributions the Hispanic culture has sewn in the fabric of our country. And while we may explore hispanic culture through diving deep into an exploration of specific countries, individuals, or cultural elements we can also provide our students with a glimpse into a culture similar or different from their own through the use of story.  With so many wonderful stories out there (although we could always use even more) that feature hispanic characters written by hispanic authors, it makes for an accessible way to introduce our children to books and characters in which they can not only see themselves but to also learn from cultures that are different from their own. Stories allow us to connect with characters in ways that can open our cultural lens and broaden our world and our understanding of one another.  But we also have to be careful that we are introducing our students to an accurate portrayal of a specific culture or people when told through story and not perpetuating stereotypes even if those books are traditionally popular among readers.   Scholastic has published an article entitled, "How to Choose the Best Multicultural Books"that details how to spot books that transcend stereotypes and use them as part of your instruction that could serve as a helpful resource.

And while this month provides an opportunity to celebrate the Hispanic culture, I hope that we can begin to integrate stories that feature Hispanic and other diverse characters throughout the year as we work to build readers and writers across Northside.  If we begin to read more stories that feature diverse characters we can begin to build a bridge with our students that allow them to articulate not only what makes us each unique, but how we also share common hopes, dreams and daily experiences that sometimes don't make us so different from one another after all.

To learn more about locating quality childrens' books written about and by Latinos check out this link from the American Library Association:

Here is another great link to check out books that focus on Latino voices through a social justice lens.

Also, this blog post written by bilingual educators and activists from their blog De Colores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children discusses the SkippyJohn Jones series for children and how it misrepresents the latino culture.

Finally, Common Sense Media has published an article for parents entitled, "Help Your Kids Find Books with Diverse Characters".  This article provides a list of over 80 books that feature children of color in authentic contexts void of stereotypes.

Featured below are just a small selection of some of my recommendations for books that are noteworthy.  Each would be wonderful additions to your classroom collection of read alouds during this month and beyond.  From traditional folktales to narrative biographies and storybooks, each of these titles are sure to capture the attention of your students and spur rich discussions in class.  Come by and check one today!



Traditional Tales:


Chapter Books:

Nonfiction and Poetry:

**The original post was edited to include the addition of more recent titles.