Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Latino Characters Lacking in Books for Young Readers

Despite the growing diversity of the U.S. population, the representation of Hispanics in literature for young readers isn’t keeping pace.

A recent article in The New York Times addresses the problem. Education reporter Motoko Rich describes how 8-year-old Mario Cortez-Pacheco of Philadelphia already notices that the characters he reads about in books such as “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” don’t look like him.

“I see a lot of people that don’t have a lot of color,” he tells her.

The article notes that the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education analyzed the race and ethnicity of authors and characters in 3,400 children’s books published in 2011. They found that only about 3 percent of the books were written about or by Hispanics.

“If all they read is Judy Blume or characters in the “Magic Treehouse series who are white and go on adventures, they start thinking of their language or practices or familiar places and values as not belonging in school,” Mariana Souto-Manning, an associate professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College, told the Times.

The story does list the names of some young Hispanic authors who are successful–Julia Alvarez, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Alma Flor Ada and Gary Soto.

Have you reviewed the reading lists for children in your district, or even state? How much diversity is included?