WOW Stories: Connections from the Classroom

Introduction: Creating Connections with Latino Texts

How can teachers help students and families connect with their own cultural heritage? How can culturally relevant literature facilitate literacy learning and encourage the joy of reading? This issue of WOW Stories: Connections from the Classroom explores these questions through vignettes of classroom practice that highlight books with a Latino focus. Intercultural understandings are rooted in students’ explorations of their own cultural identities. For students who are marginalized in schools due to their language, heritage, or socioeconomic status, literature that reflects their cultures can be an entryway into literacy. The growth of the Latino population within the United States has created an interest in how to successfully integrate literature with a Latino focus into classrooms, so that Latino students can both see themselves reflected in the literature and so their classmates can understand this diverse cultural group. The authors in this issue share how they have connected children with books to promote cultural understandings.

The first two vignettes highlight home/school connections that promote literacy and thinking. Julia López-Robertson describes how she structured Pláticas Literarias, book discussions, to take advantage of the cultural and linguistic strengths of her students and their families. Jeanne Fain and Robin Horn discuss parental interactions within home literature discussions that supported children in discussing these same books at school.

The next two vignettes focus on ways of connecting children with literature that reflects their cultural backgrounds. Deanna Paiva describes how her students enthusiastically explored family stories in response to a children’s picture book. In his article, Albert Gonzalez tells how he created bilingual picture books to support two middle school students as they struggled with reading and writing. In the final vignette, Angela Grabow reflects on how book clubs helped her students explore difficult issues such as immigration and language use.

How do you connect children and adolescents with literature in ways that promote intercultural understandings? Consider sharing your innovative practices by submitting a vignette to WOW Stories. We are interested in descriptions of interactions with literature in classrooms and libraries at preschool through secondary levels. See our call for manuscripts for more information.

Janine Schall