As the holidays draw to a close and parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles run to and fro searching for a toy, video game, or gadget that will bring a special smile to the faces of the children in their lives, let’s all agree on one thing: to stop at our local bookstore or go online and get at least one children’s book written by a Latino author to include among all of the other fabulous presents under the tree on Christmas Eve.
A book has the power to bring as much excitement and as many hours of engagement as any other gift—probably more so—yet, it is the present that is most often overlooked for children in favor of others that may have far less impact. If you are exhausted with holiday shopping and need another reason to give this wonderful, potentially life-changing gift to a child you love, here are three very good ones:
1. Let our children see themselves in the books they read.
You may have read the recent New York Times article pointing to the scarcity of books for children that feature Latino characters in prominent roles, or the piece that followed it on NBC Latino. Both have sparked strong reactions from parents, educators and general readers. What most folks do agree on, is that Latino children—in fact all children—should be able to see themselves in the books they read, if for no other reason than to help them validate who they are and appreciate where they come from, wherever that may be. As Latina mamis, we can best do this by ensuring that our children are exposed to books that accurately depict our Latino children’s real lives, and in some way celebrate our heritage.
2. Help our children read to succeed.
As mentioned in my first editorial, studies have shown a clear link between early exposure to books and reading, and academic success. It should come as no surprise that children who are read to at home and regularly exposed to books start school better prepared to use books as learning tools, and to think critically. Though this can be achieved by reading any book to your child, I encourage you to include at least some Latino books in your child’s home library for the reason mentioned above, and because reading is also a wonderful way to bond with your child. And what better way than to read about and discuss experiences that are culturally relevant to your family? And while you are reading and bonding, sign the Mamiverse Pledge and start off the New Year by committing to reading to your child everyday. Print your certificate and display it prominently in your child’s bedroom to show that reading is something to be proud of, and to be celebrated!
3. Your dollars, your voice.
There is no way around this: We live in a capitalist society ruled by supply and demand. Want to see more books by Latino authors get published for the reasons mentioned above and many others? Then buy more books by Latino authors! The more commercially viable these books become for publishers, the more they will want to publish them. So, if your child just loved a book by a Latino author, tell everyone about it and encourage them to go to their local bookstore or library and buy or borrow it (and while you are all there, ask them to carry more Latino books!). Together, we can make an enormous difference by becoming more mindful consumers.
Read Related: The Missing Link: Latinos in Books & Publishing
Now that you have some very important reasons to buy books as holiday gifts, here are some wonderful holiday-themed Latino children’s titles that could easily become seasonal favorites in your home:
• The Gift of the Poinsettia/El regalo de la flor de Nochebuena by Pat Mora (Arte Público)
• Merry Navidad! Christmas Carols in Spanish and English/Villancicos en español e ingles by Alma Flor Ada & F. Isabel Campoy(HarperCollins)
• El mejor regalo del mundo: La leyenda de La vieja Belén by Julia Alvarez (Santillana)
• La Noche Buena: A Christmas Story by Antonio Sacre (Abrams)
• The Road to Santiago by D.H. Figueredo (Lee & Low)
• Feliz Navidad: Two Stories Celebrating Christmas by José Feliciano (Scholastic)
For more suggestions, be sure to explore our book reviews, which are categorized by age group to make it easier to find the perfect books for the children in your life.
Now you may really say that you are finished with your shopping! Happy holidays and happy reading, everyone!