It’s time to take the conversation on Latino literacy to the next level.
A study conducted in 2000 by the U.S. Dept. of Education found that half of Latino kids could not recognize the letters of the alphabet upon starting school. This is probably closely linked to the fact that in that same year, Latino kids were found to be less likely than any other ethnic or racial group to be enrolled in an early childhood program. More recently, the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that in 2011, only 18 percent of Hispanic fourth graders were proficient in reading. When it comes to literacy, the majority of Latino kids consistently fail to meet the standard.
So what is happening here? Is it because, as one publisher put it, “Latinos don’t read?” Is it because Latino parents don’t care if their kids do well in school? Well, Latinas for Latino Literature doesn’t think that at all. In fact, we understand that Latino parents care very much about their children’s success. But not all Latino parents know how to help their kids develop their reading skills.
Latinas for Latino Literature is taking action by providing Latino families with the tools we need to help our kids succeed academically. We are doing that through the launch of our Latino Children’s Summer Reading Program, which challenges Latino students to read at least eight books this summer and offers various prize incentives. For example, the first 100 participants with children in elementary school who complete the free reading program will receive a backpack full of school supplies to help families with the cost of going back to school. Additional prizes will be revealed this summer for families with younger and older kids.
The Latino Children’s Summer Reading Program is the first online program designed specifically for Latino families and is providing tools for all children – from newborns to 18 years old. We know that parents play a crucial role in the development of their children’s pre-literacy skills before they enter school, and that they also play an important role in helping their kids learn to read once they do start classes.
Parents can register their families for free on the Latinas4LatinoLit.org website. Then they can download the printables we’ve created for both children and parents, like our pledges to help families remember to read throughout the summer (or every day of the year). Families will also find different types of reading logs on our site so parents can choose the one that fits their children best, and they’ll even find certificates of achievement that parents can print and present to their child once they meet their reading goals.
Because we also feel very strongly that our stories matter, we have created reading lists for kids up to 18 years old. The books are written by or about Latinos. Spanish titles are included. These reading lists are not mandatory, but are ones that we love and recommend. On our website, parents will also find a resource page with links and tips to help them raise readers, including where they can find and buy Latino children’s literature.
And we know that when it comes to Latino children’s literacy, we have to think outside the box. Research indicates that Latinos are the largest group consuming social media. So we are thrilled to have partnered with Google in this project, as they are helping us to incorporate technology to reach more Latino families. From Google Hangouts to Google Education, we’re looking forward to sharing some valuable resources to help our kids become proficient readers by fourth grade.
To register your family for the Latino Children’s Summer Reading Program, visit www.Latinas4LatinoLit.org. It’s free, so there’s nothing to lose. Together we can raise readers.
Monica Olivera Hazelton, NBC Latino contributor and the founder and publisher of MommyMaestra.com, a site for Latino families that homeschool, as well as families with children in a traditional school setting who want to take a more active role in their children’s education. She is the 2011 winner of the “Best Latina Education Blogger” award by LATISM.