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LAII Provides Class Sets of Diverse Books to Empower Students

The Latin American & Iberian Institute is partnering with the Spanish Resource Center (SRC) of Albuquerque to expand the SRC's Lending Library with class sets of diverse books. The effort is tied to the LAII's Vamos a Leer book group and blog, which is part of a broader national and local movement to push children's and young adult literature into more diverse terrain. For reference, see the program flyer or contact the Spanish Resource Center at spanish.resource@state.nm.us.

Writing recently in the NY Times, author Kwame Alexander notes that "There is a seismic shift of tolerance and understanding happening in our country in general and in children’s literature in particular. Authors are calling on publishers to introduce more diverse books and writers into the marketplace, with themes and characters that truly reflect and represent the variegated world we live in."

While not nearly reflective of the population's diversity, the range of diverse literature is gradually improving and expanding across the country. From publishers such as Cinco Puntos Press and Lee & Low Books, more and more books are allowing young readers, particularly young readers of color, to see themselves in the texts they read. At the same time, however, these books are not necessarily present in a standard K-12 classroom.

Teachers with whom the LAII have worked have shared how difficult it can be to find class sets of books that fall outside of the traditional cannon of K-12 literature, or to identify resources to acquire non-traditional titles. The LAII's modest lending library initiative is part of an effort to counter that inaccessibility by bringing more resources to New Mexico students. The hope is to grow the lending library each year.

With the support of the LAII's National Resource Center grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the LAII has acquired class sets (30 copies of each) of the following titles. To support their use in the classroom, the LAII has also produced standards-based educator's guides. Both the books and educator's guides are available at no cost to current classroom teachers.

  • Cajas de cartón by Francisco Jiménez
  • The Circuit by Francisco Jiménez
  • The Color of My Words by Lyn Joseph
  • El color de mis palabras by Lyn Joseph
  • Before we were Free by Julia Alvarez
  • Antes de ser libres by Julia Alvarez
  • The Surrender Tree / El árbol de la rendición by Margarita Engle
  • Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
  • Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant's Tale by Duncan Tonatiuh

This initiative builds on the SRC's existing Lending Library, which is housed in the Domenici Education Building of the National Hispanic Cultural Center. The library offers a wealth of literature and materials about many aspects of Spanish life and culture, all of which are accessible to the broader public and which may be borrowed from the library. The SRC itself is affiliated with the Spanish Embassy and The University of New Mexico. Its primary mission is to support the teaching of Spanish language and culture.

The LAII is committed to enhancing awareness of diverse literature related to Latinx, Latin American, and Caribbean cultures, and to making such literature more widely accessible to New Mexico educators and students. To learn more about the LAII's related resources, visit Vamos a Leer, a website that provides regular reviews of children's books and young adult novels, as well as curriculum resources and suggestions for classroom activities.

Image: Chicago mural photograph reprinted from Pawn Works.

--Posted September 12, 2016.