LatinaLista — President Obama’s State of the Union announcement that he plans on working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America is welcome news in the Latino community that has historically struggled with low literacy rates.
In states such as California and Texas, Latino students account for more than 50 percent of all children of kindergarten age or younger, and the majority of them enter kindergarten already six months behind their peers in school readiness.
One of the major reasons Latino children lag in school readiness is the lack of access to quality children’s books in their homes. A national bilingual reading program started in 2011, Read Conmigo, is making a renewed push to boost literacy rates among Latino children by spreading the word that Latino families and educators can receive free bilingual children’s books.
Sponsored by Infinity Insurance, the parent-focused literacy program has already distributed more than 350,000 free books to classrooms and families — and they want to distribute even more.
It’s a win-win situation for children, families and educators and it couldn’t be simpler.
Parents of children from kindergarten to fifth grade can register online to receive the free bilingual children’s books every second month. For those who live in California, Florida, Texas, Arizona and Alabama, shipping is free. Everyone else, regardless of what state they live in, will receive the books via computer, otherwise known as e-books.
Read Conmigo books feature creative, fresh and engaging stories in both English and Spanish, so that parents and children can read aloud together. The campaign promotes the distinct educational, social, and financial benefits of bilingualism and provides parents with free tools and resources to help them create a lifelong love of reading. Many Latino parents, grandparents and caregivers who do not read fluently yet in English are hesitant to read to their children at home in Spanish. Studies show, however, that bilingual reading together is just as effective at building good reading skills. This helps students raise their reading levels and succeed in the classroom, and fosters a positive learning environment. The books are also helpful for Hispanics who want to nurture their children’s Spanish fluency, and for all families that want to promote the love of reading and a love of languages.
Another benefit of the program is that it is actively creating publishing opportunities and exposure for up and coming Latino authors and illustrators.
At a time when a minimal number of mainstream published children’s books feature Latino characters, the program serves as a foundation for changing the attitude of established publishers towards Latino readers and, at the same time, fostering a love of a skill that is essential for any child or adult to have a successful life.