A Reading Program to Help Kids Find Themselves—and Their Culture—This Summer


Summer has come to New York and with it we see children escaping the rigors of the classroom. While children relish this time away from learning, parents should be aware that the summer break can cause many children to forget much of what they learned over the past school year—a process known as the summer slide.

Enter, Latinas 4 Latino Lit, a group of Latino authors, teachers, and activists who developed a nationwide, online summer reading program specifically for Hispanic teachers and families. Latinas 4 Latino Lit promotes both Latino literature as well as Latino literacy.

Latinas 4 Latino Lit’s summer reading program can help make reading and teaching accessible to parents and teachers over the summer. The program is similar to those offered by libraries and schools across the country, but with a twist. Latinas 4 Latino Lit emphasizes Latino authors and books about Latino issues—something rarely seen in other summer reading programs.

Viviana Hurtado, one of the co-founders of Latinas 4 Latino Lit recognizes this all too well, which is why she worked with Monica Olivera, her co-founder, to develop the reading list. This list of books by and for Latinos has been developed for parents and teachers so they can help children better understand their Latino heritage through the portrayal of cultural and societal issues that often impact Latino children.

Olivera and Hurtado don’t only target children. Each year, the New York Times releases its top 100 books of the year. Latino authors are very underrepresented. As such, Latinas 4 Latino Lit releases its own list of books that the New York Times could have considered. They send this list to the New York Times as well as other journalists who focus on literature to show them that there is an extensive list of qualified Latino authors.

To help motivate kids to participate, the program offers incentives to the children who complete the program. Children ages four years and under can win a $50 Google Play gift card; those ages five to eight years old can win a backpack of school supplies; and nine- to 18-year-olds can win a Google Chromebook. Parents and educators can sign up here. The program is self-paced and is meant to be monitored by an adult. Enrollment closes July 14 and each family can have up to four children in the program.

There’s also a longer-term goal for Latinas 4 Latino Lit. By continually exposing young minds to Latino literature, Olivera and Hurtado aim to accustom children to reading diverse literature, something they hope will proliferate through later generations. They also hope to inspire young Latinos to pursue a career in writing.

Another key component of this summer reading program is the way that Latinas 4 Latino Lit engages the authors at all stages of the literary process. Olivera works with established Latino authors to help find new authors. In some cases they will collaborate in the creation of the summer reading list in order to best reflect the true diversity of Latino culture.

The hope is that this summer, between swinging from swing sets and playing video games, children will be able to gain a better understanding of Latino literature, and in some cases maybe even recognize themselves in the books they are reading.

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