Giving Families in the US Access to Spanish-Language Books is Essential. Here’s Why.
Michelle Sioson Hyman, Sr. VP, Program and Partnerships, Raising A Reader and Kristen Walter, Director of US Programs, Worldreader
This Spanish-language book is spreading an important message
Last year, a popular book in Worldreader’s library was a Spanish-language children’s book called El Abuelo Del Bosque, meaning ‘the grandfather of the forest’. It’s written by Hernán Garrido Lecca, a Peruvian author, and tells the story of a boy who lives in the Amazon with his grandfather Juan, a well-known healer of the community.
With colorful pictures, the book helps children learn about the natural wonders of the Amazon.
As Raising A Reader knows all too well, for many Spanish speaking families in the US, Spanish-language books like this one are not easy to come by. But they should be. Spanish-language books can improve academic performance, teach children about their ethnic and cultural identities, help families raise bilingual children, and even boost parental involvement in school.
How do you raise the next Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cesar Chavez, or Sonia Sotomayor? It all starts with reading.
One in four children in the US is Latinx. For some, it’s harder to thrive in school
Across the United States today, there are classrooms brimming with wide-eyed students opening up their textbooks, ready to dive into a new lesson of Math, History, or Geography. But for many of those students, whose first language is not English, it’s more difficult to grasp what’s being taught.
Of the 18.6 million Latinx children in America, about 3.8 million are native Spanish-speakers who are not proficient in English. These students make up the bulk of the approximately five million students nationwide identified as English language learners. This happens to be the fastest-growing demographic in US schools. Unfortunately, the US system and schools are not fully prepared to support these students, which means they don’t always receive adequate support from an early age.
And it matters not only in primary school. These students also risk falling behind later on in life. High school dropout rates show that Latinx students are twice as likely as their Caucasian peers to drop out of high school.
If schools are equipped with the right learning materials they can give families access to Spanish-language books that will help students excel inside and outside the classroom. Here’s why.
Surprisingly, Spanish-language books can help children learn English
It may seem counterintuitive, but research suggests that by developing a child’s literacy skills in their home language, it is easier for them to learn to speak, read, and write English in the future.
So the more opportunities families have to engage in meaningful conversations about books in their home language, the more the child will hear fluent language and strong vocabulary, increasing their likelihood of becoming fluent in English.
Teachers can create a more inclusive environment for all students
Imagine you’re one of these students struggling to understand the language of instruction. That can quickly become frustrating and discouraging. It can lead to weakened relationships between students and teachers, and this can have a negative impact on a student’s overall performance.
But teachers have an opportunity to create an inclusive environment for all students. By giving children access to Spanish-language books and strengthening the home language of all children in the classroom, teachers can create a classroom that encourages communication, and celebrates diversity.
What’s more, non-Latinx students can develop a second language, while learning about new cultures, and expanding their view of the world.
Latinx parents will feel more involved in their children’s school
A parent’s involvement in a child’s learning is essential for any child to flourish. However, when schools ask non-English families to read books in the English language with their children, it’s less likely the parents will be able to participate in their child’s growth, creating inequality in access to family support for the child.
Instead, if Latinx children are encouraged by their teachers to read Spanish-language books, they’ll empower parents to play an active role in their child’s education. And they’ll show Latinx parents that they care, so parents feel more connected to the school.
Spanish books will help Latinx children celebrate their ethinc and cultural roots
In an effort to assimilate into the American way of life, many families discard their cultural customs in favor of new traditions. But learning about other countries and cultures is an important part of a child’s education and where better to start than with one’s own family.
Like the popular children’s book El Abuelo Del Bosque, Spanish-language books are a cultural treasure chest, and will encourage Latinx and non-Latinx children to celebrate the differences in these cultures.
Raising A Reader: Leaders in engaging readers
For all the reasons listed above, Raising A Reader is committed to creating family-facing materials in at least two languages, and is proud to partner with Worldreader. In addition to Raising A Reader’s high-quality print books and resources supporting families and educators, Worldreader puts hundreds of Spanish stories in the pockets of caregivers.
You can read Spanish-language children’s books for free using Worldreader’s app
Worldreader’s BookSmart app will give you access to a free library of hundreds of books. Just go to http://booksmart.world/free on the web browser of your mobile phone or tablet to try it out.