Friday, January 11, 2019

UTSA explores Latino children's literature at March 23-25 conference

UTSA explores Latino children's literature at March 23-25 conference

(March 23, 2017) -- Authors, scholars, librarians, educators and artists are among the many who will converge upon San Antonio this week to discuss the latest and best in Latino children's and young adult literature.

The eighth National Latino Children's Literature Conference, "Connecting Cultures & Celebrating Cuentos," is scheduled on Thursday, March 23 through Saturday, March 25 at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Downtown Campus.

"Even though Latino children are representative of where our country is going, U.S. schools are lagging in materials that reflect their lives and the lives of their community," said Carmen Tafolla, UTSA professor of Transformative Children's Literature and an internationally renowned author of more than 20 books. "We are not seeing the changing demographics of our country reflected within the books children are reading. In schools, for example, 'required reading' lists rarely contain titles penned by Latino authors. As our country changes, so, too, must this oversight change."

According to census estimates, Latinos represent the largest minority group in the U.S. and are predicted to become the majority group by 2050. One study of national data by Child Trends' Hispanic Institute identified that only 21 percent of Latino fourth-graders scored at or above "proficient" levels when it comes to reading.

The LCL conference aims to promote new strategies for raising the reading achievement Latino students across the country and affirm their overall educational engagement, esteem and aspirations.

Conference topics this year include social justice and literacy, explorations of the immigrant experience, teaching young writers, using stories and narratives to understand lived experiences, and LGBTQ representation in children's and young adult stories. The LCL conference will also feature readings and performances by several award-winning Latino authors, including Tafolla, Duncan Tonatiuh, Guadalupe Garcia-McCall and Alma Flor Ada.

In late 2015, UT System Chancellor William McRaven outlined his five-year strategic plan. One of the main tenets of the plan was a call to boost literacy rates among elementary school students.

"The National Latino Children's Literature Conference is all about highlighting the importance of literacy for Latino children and young adults," said Howard L. Smith, associate professor of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies in the UTSA College of Education and Human Development. "The conference brings people to UTSA from around the country truly care about the literacy of Latinos. We will explore how Latino culture, education, history and identities interact with each other in our stories, and show why there's such a need for these stories to exist."

Smith and Tafolla are chairing the conference with Jaime Campbell Naidoo of the University of Alabama, who will give the keynote address on March 23.

UTSA is ranked among the top 400 universities in the world and among the top 100 in the nation, according to Times Higher Education.

- Jesus Chavez

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Learn more about the Latino Children's Literature Conference.

Learn more about the UTSA College of Education and Human Development.

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