Updated: Jan 14, 2022
By: Sydney Spangler
Flipping through social media comments, catching headlines of news stories, or cozying up with a book all have one thing in common - they involve the act of reading.
Reading is one of the fundamental building blocks upon which a solid education can be built. However, 54% of U.S. adults ages 16 to 74 - roughly 130 million people - lack proficiency in literacy, reading below a sixth-grade level. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Education. In Texas, that number is 28% according to the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies Texas. The Lone Star State is also last in percentage of people 25 years and over who have completed high school or have a high school equivalency diploma.
Here in the Coastal Bend, where 63% of Corpus Christi’s adult population is Hispanic or Latino, about one in five people in Nueces County are illiterate.
One problem is that early education resources are limited or non-existent in communities of color, creating negative effects on their educational experience and reduced success in adulthood. There are less than 1% of bilingual children’s books in the U.S. Additionally, in 2020, only 6.1% of books focused on Latinx characters. To help solve this problem, two mothers in Los Angeles, California, began their mission to introduce bilingualism and Latin American culture through picture board books.
Lil’ Libros is a children’s books publisher which aims to fill the void by creating books and products that celebrate Latin American culture and important figures in its history. These books honor vibrant stories such as the life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and Cuban music icon Celia Cruz in English and Spanish while also introducing kids to concepts like first words, numbers, colors, shapes, and biographies.
I recently had the opportunity to read one of their publications, “La Catrina: Emotions/ Emociones,” which is a picture board book for readers ages 0 to 4. The book’s illustrations are inspired by one of the most recognized symbols of Dia De Muertos or “Day of the Dead,” and introduces little ones to emotional expressions and their first English and Spanish words. It teaches them to recognize emotions like surprise, happiness, triste, and confidence. It is one of many books that represents Latinx culture while promoting learning experiences across all areas crucial to the development of young minds. Their books are definitely worth checking out the next time you visit a bookstore or a public library.
Lil’ Libros was founded by Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein to encourage reading in two languages at the earliest ages with books that celebrate inclusivity, different cultures, and authenticity. The independent publishing company has sold over 1.5 million books worldwide.