Education experts and teachers who work with large Latino populations say that the lack of familiar images could be an obstacle as young readers work to build stamina and deepen their understanding of story elements like character motivation. While there are exceptions, including books by Julia Alvarez, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Alma Flor Ada and Gary Soto, what is available is "not finding its way into classrooms," said Patricia Enciso, an associate professor at Ohio State University. Books commonly read by elementary school children -- those with human characters rather than talking animals or wizards -- include the Junie B. Jones, Cam Jansen, Judy Moody, Stink and Big Nate series, all of which feature a white protagonist. An occasional African-American, Asian or Hispanic character may pop up in a supporting role, but these books depict a predominantly white, suburban milieu.
"Kids do have a different kind of connection when they see a character that looks like them or they experience a plot or a theme that relates to something they've experienced in their lives," said Jane Fleming, an assistant professor at the Erikson Institute, a graduate school in early childhood development in Chicago.
Young Latino Students Don't See Themselves in Books
At FAVL we care a lot about this question, in the African context obviously, and it is surprising how little rigorous research it gets, despite the billions spent on education research. An article in the New York Times is attracting a lot of reader comments. Note that, as one commentator observed, big media like the NYT have a regular rotation of these articles, which generate reader responses like nothing else. The article is filled with suppositions like the very first line of the quote below... "experts say it could be...":