August 19, 2010

Pat Talks about Bilingual and Multicultural Publishing

In 2009, Pat was interviewed for a planned update of the Texas Library Association (TLA) Día site. As part of the interview, Pat was asked the question: What is your hope for the growth of bilingual and multicultural books for children and teens?

"I’m a bit uncomfortable with the word “multicultural” which is usually used to mean work by non-Anglo authors. All books are cultural in that they are written by a particular person who is part of a culture, a way of seeing the world. I’ve been having the same problem with the word “mainstream.” What does that really mean? Given our national plurality, the true mainstream is diverse. So what are most of the books published and reviewed and honored? A protected stream? To change metaphors, America’s authentic chorus is diverse. Why all those voices are not fairly represented in the award system and published is a fascinating question.

I can feel mighty discouraged when I read the statistics that document the growth of diversity in the student population and the lack of growth in the diversity of the authors who are published for children and young adults. I’ve written about this topic for years and stressed the importance of diversifying the editorial and marketing staffs, particularly at major publishing houses, and the need for teachers and librarians to be vocal and effective advocates for the books their students deserve, books that reflect the students’ lives and stories. Though educators say they like and need bilingual books, publishers often say that the books don’t really sell. I begin with two assumptions. Publishing is a business. If an editor publishes books that don’t sell, that editor is in trouble. Since most people are people of good will, I’ve often suggested that conference panels with editors and librarians/teachers exploring this challenge could be helpful.

In the last year, I’ve become more aware that bilingual books can be intimidating to monolingual librarians and teachers. An interesting challenge for TLA, given its commitment to Día and family literacy, is how to assist librarians to develop strategies for using bilingual books with all students."

Read the full interview about Día, programming for teens, and reading here.

1 comment:

TongueTales said...

Well, in our community bilingual books, and books written in other languages are just now becoming available in the county library.

At the local schools, I am sure they are available less. Most schools here only have one or two foreign language teachers. So one argument for not buying the books might be that there are not enough qualified teachers to read the books in both languages with the children in the schools.

As far as multicultural books go I think it may be easier for librarians to introduce unfamiliar titles. The librarians have to be proactive about this. Last week in our house we read a book that I wouldn't have classified as multicultural, but our family was introduced to new cultures, ideas, and lifestyles. It was a children's story about a teacher who taught out of a one room schoolhouse in Alaska. My kids and I have learned about Native Alaskan Indians, fishing, trapping, and more.

Anyway, just my two cents.