Committing to Language Equity in Authentic Literature
If you have scheduled a book preview with us, you know that one of the elements we prioritize in our collections is authentic literature. Authentic literature is powerful because readers are exposed to figurative language, cultural practices and local traditions. We also see authentic literature as a vehicle for a different way of thinking, a new set of norms that authors communicate through their writing.
Not only do we intentionally include authentic literature in both our Classroom Libraries and Read Aloud collections, we also believe in language equity. In school settings, language equity typically means that students can use their home language(s). For this definition, dual language programs are ideal instructional models to support language equity. However, we go a little bit beyond that.
Once in a while, we get asked if we have “books by [nationality] authors?” Our answer is more often than not a resounding “yes!” because we strive for language equity within the Spanish-speaking and French-speaking worlds. We do not privilege one variation of Spanish or French. Instead, we seek out authors from many different countries because we believe that one thing that language opens up is the ability to travel through books to different destinations, with distinct cultures, and location-specific language.
You’ll see this clearly present in our upper elementary read alouds. Balam, Lluvia y la casa is written by Guatemalan author Julio Serrano Echeverría. Alma del mar is by Costa Rican author Jaime Gamboa. Si quisqueya fuera un color is a mami’s words to her daughter on what Blackness is like in the Dominican Republic. La aceitunilla Pepa takes us on an olive’s journey from growing to harvesting to becoming olive oil, an homage to one of Spain’s agricultural flagship products.
We reinforce linguistic equity across the Spanish-speaking world with our nonfiction selection as well. Nacer by Chilean author Paulina Jara tells us through poetry how different species of animals are born, and how they are cared for. Nacimientos bestiales is a great work to compare it to. Written by Catalan author Aina Bestard, it digs a little deeper with detailed descriptions and scientific terminology, as well as neat illustrations on translucent paper. Ecos verdes is also rich in ideas and academic language around how we can be eco-citizens. Co-written by Chilean authors Mónica Martin, María de los Ángeles Pavez and Alejandra Acosta, it empowers students to implement change in their communities.
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Sofi Rice & Marie Bouteillon, Lead Curator at Hexagramm Books
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