A Guide to Translanguaging in Latino/a Literature for Educators PreK-12

Guide to Latino Literature

We’re so pleased to share with you this valuable free resource for both parents and educators. Created by Vanessa Pérez Rosario, Ph.D., a professor of Latino Studies with a focus on literature and education. Click here to download Translanguaging in Latino/a Literature: A Guide for Educators.


Translanguaging in Latino/a Literature: A Guide for Educators
by Vanessa Pérez

In an interview, writer Esmeralda Santiago reflects on her choice to become a writer. She remembers looking for books that she could identify as a young woman who had migrated from Puerto Rico to Brooklyn as a teenager and recalls, “there were no books about Puerto Rican girls in Brooklyn. I think that I was driven to be a writer because I didn’t exist in the literature, and therefore didn’t exist in the culture. I simply wasn’t there.”

While today there are many wonderful works of literature that reflect the Latino/a experience and are appropriate for very young children through high school, these books often don’t make it into our curricula or our classrooms. This Latino/a Literature Guide offers teachers culturally sustaining literature suggestions, deepens our understanding of bilingualism and the language practices of Latino/a bilinguals, which is enriching and empowering for the bilingual reader. The Guide was created in the context of the City University of New York – New York State Initiative on Emergent Bilinguals (CUNY NYSIEB) and is aligned with our core principals, to develop a multilingual ecology in schools and to see bilingualism as a resource.

This Guide offers analysis of language use in 32 works of Latino/a literature that are appropriate for Grades PreK-12, analyzing seventeen books for Grades PreK-6 and fifteen books for Grades 7-12. The analysis of each book includes lexile level, themes, author biography and website, a list of supplemental resources, a summary of the book, and an analysis of the way the author uses translanguaging, the flexible use of linguistic resources in literature. Analyzing the way that authors translanguage, or flexibly use Spanish and English in their texts, helps us to explore our bilingualism and bicultural identities leading to a deeper understanding of bilingualism. The Guide encourages literacy development through the use of culturally relevant texts and it deepens our understanding of bilingualism and the language practices of Latino/as.

How might teachers use this Guide in the classroom? Some of our schools have already started using the Guide and this is how they are doing it. Schools are purchasing the books included here for independent reading classroom libraries. Some schools are replacing the books recommended by purchased curricula for the books recommended here because they are more culturally sustaining and relevant to the children’s lives. In the Guide, non-fiction reading is introduced along with the literary texts in the form of the author’s biographies. In the additional resources section for each book you can often find links to author interviews and literary analysis of the text, helping teachers meet the non-fiction reading requirements. The books included here can serve as models for assignments where students are asked to include words from their home language in their own poetry or narrative writing. Finally, one elementary school has decided to use the book América is her name by Luis Rodríguez (included in the Guide) to introduce students to the poetry unit. In the story, América, a young Mixteca girl migrates to Chicago and she is having a hard time fitting in. When her teacher Mr. Aponte encourages her to write and recite poetry in English and in Spanish or whatever language she feels most comfortable with, she is able to make sense of the world around her and find a sense of home through poetry.

I invite you to download your free copy here.

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