On September 22nd I had the opportunity of visiting Anderson University once more. This time I was invited by Dr. Krissie Butler and my presentation was part of the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration in the University. Isn’t it special? I am so thankful for having this chance of going back to share my journey with Santiago’s Dinosaurios in such a wonderful place.
This time, I not only addressed Children’s Lit students in their classroom, like I did back in April. This time, I presented in an auditorium which was pretty full with students who wanted to come listen. It was such a great experience!
For this presentation, I not only talked about how I became a writer, what inspired me to write Santiago’s story, and how the book came to be. For this occasion, I additionally prepared other information according to what the organizers requested, which was interesting for me. So this time, I also shared a bit more about my experience as a Mexican immigrant coming to live in the USA, and all the challenges and adjustments that my family went through (which in a way inspired Santiago’s book). However, I also spoke about how diversity is important in books that children read and what is being done to promote it in the industry from my perspective as a Latin writer and my own experience.
So, as you can tell, this presentation was quite a bit different from my previous ones, and I enjoyed being able to research and learn more too. So, I want to share with you the following statistics that show how crucial it is to have more representation in children’s books, because for me it was quite shocking to figure this out. It makes me realize how important it is as a Latin writer to be able to share stories with my cultural background and even my language.
According to the last Census in 2020, 1 in every 4 kids under 18 in the USA is Latin.
I went a bit further and I shared the following graphics which have to do with diversity in children’s books. The information is taken from a diversity study made by Cooperative Children’s Book Center for 2022 and the numbers show that from the books they used as a sample (3,451 books) only 11% are created by Latin writers. Now, if we analyze the main characters in those books, we see that only 6% are Latin, while animals have a 22% and objects 15%. That speaks volumes of how much things need to change. Please note that I’m focusing on Latin because I’m a Mexican author, and the presentation was part of the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month; but you can see how it is with other ethnicities and groups too. You can learn more about this study from the School of Education University of Wisconsin here. It explains how the study is done and the FAQ section provides excellent perspective.
In my opinion, what’s relevant here is that all children should be able to see themselves in the stories they read, not just as extras or background figures, but as the main characters. They need to see kids that look like them, have the same traditions, values and history. That will promote more tolerance and understanding among human beings, and will help us value and embrace our differences.
Afterwards I shared with the students the support that I have received throughout my journey a as a latin writer. Like how my cover reveal was hosted by We Need Diverse Books, or how I found my wonderful editor for Santiago’s Dinosaurios in LatinxPitch and how much support and community I’ve found being part of Las Musas. Additionally, I told them how lucky I’ve been that my editors and publishers (for Santiago’s Dinosaurios and Abuelita’s Gift) are looking to enhance and promote diverse voices and stories like mine. I shared a bit about my upcoming book to be published next Fall 2024, which is a story of family and love that happens during Día de Muertos celebration in México. As you can imagine, that book will be full of tradition, folklore, color and joy. I’m very excited about it and looking forward to sharing more about how that book came to be in the coming months. Stay tuned!
I can see that the publishing industry is moving towards being more equitable with different creators. A lot still needs to be done, of course, it’s a long journey and it’s not happening as fast as we’d like; but I’m glad to notice that many recognize the value in letting children learn about how human beings are all different and that everyone one of us matter.
As you can probable tell, it was an interesting experience for me and also for the students, who seemed to enjoy my presentation since they were paying attention and even had questions. Addressing this audience is so different than reading the book aloud to elementary kids, but just as rewarding. Turns out that many of the students in the auditorium want to be writers themselves or elementary school teachers, some were also studying Spanish. It was very special when at the end of my presentation, they came to me and we were able to speak for a while. I’m thankful for their kindness, the invitation, the photos and feature in AU website.
Truth is, you really never know how you can touch others, not just as a writer, but as a person. School visits have been such an unexpected treat for me during this new adventure. I’m very grateful and looking forward to meeting many more students and their teachers in the future.
Thanks for reading!
Cover photo by Katerina Holmes.