As a mami, Latina, and book publishing professional, I am positively thrilled to participate in the launch Mamiverse Books, and thankful to the fantastic Mamiverse team for their wholehearted cooperation and support for the effort.
During my 15 years in publishing, I have participated on many panels and done a number of interviews on the subject of children’s books. Invariably, at the end of each panel or interview, I am approached by a mami eager to help her child succeed, always with questions along these lines: How do I get my child to love reading? Which are the best books for my child? Where can I get these books? There are a lot of children’s books out there, and not enough information on how choose them. There’s almost no information for Latina moms in particular. I have reviewed and selected books for librarians and educators, but have had few opportunities to address the true shapers of Latino children’s futures—their mamis—directly.
I am raising a trilingual and tri-cultural child. I read to him every day and instill a love of books and learning every chance I get. But even while I do so, I am still painfully aware of the fact that too many of our Latino children are not enjoying the same privileges, and that far too many of our kids are still dropping out of high school and not getting an adequate early childhood education—both of which are essential in today’s highly competitive, global economy. How is this possible, when one out of every four children born in the U.S. is Latino? I believe that there are mamis out there looking for information, and simply not getting it.
What many mamis may not know is that studies show that children who are read to at an early age, and who grow up surrounded by books at home, generally do better in school. So, how do you help your child to do better in school, and to become a successful adult? The best way to ensure your child’s success at school is to begin to read to him or her, and to make books a significant part of his or her life, as soon as possible. How early is too early? Never! You can begin to read to your child in the womb, and if you think that a 3-month old doesn’t “get” books, read the same books to him or her consistently for nine months and see what happens! And remember, it is ever too late to put a book in a child’s hands.
Read Related: Books That Help Kids Transition Back to School
That brings me to the “which” question I get asked so often: Which books are the best ones for my child? The first goal of Mamiverse Books is to provide you with the tools to find children’s books for the kids in your life. To that end, we will be reviewing books in all categories; from board books to books for young adults, with a particular focus on books for and by Latinos, and books that we believe will help Latina moms specifically. Our reviewers are all industry professionals with years of experience working in school, library, and academic settings. If you don’t know what these categories mean, here is a general overview:
Board Books (Ages 0-3):
These books’ thick pages are durable enough for babies and toddlers, who can bite them, toss them, and manipulate them without causing major damage as they would the pages of a paper picture book. Concepts such as colors and numbers are usually taught in this format. There are also quite a few of “goodnight” and “touch and feel” books in this category. Board books are wonderful tools to help babies with sensory development and to develop fine motor skills, as they make it possible for even the littlest ones to turn pages on their own—a milestone by any measure!
Picture Books (Ages 3-8):
Like their name suggests, these are illustrated books targeted for more sophisticated readers who require more complex narratives to keep them engaged. Picture books run the gamut from short, simple tales for younger readers to narrative stories for those a bit older. The quintessential picture book that most adults in the U.S. know and grew up with is Maurice Sendak’s classic, Where the Wild Things Are. While the content of picture books has changed some over the years, the basic illustrated format has not.
Middle Grade Books (Ages 8-12)
Something wonderful has happened to children’s books in the past few years—they have crossed over to an adult audience! This can most easily be appreciated by the most famous of middle grade series: Harry Potter. What distinguishes middle grade books from those for young adults in most instances is the ages of the main characters and the age-appropriate content—middle grade books tend to be a bit “tamer” than young adult novels, which these days, often cover subjects that better reflect teenagers’ complex experiences and concerns.
Young Adult Books (14 and up)
As mentioned above, young adult books are generally more sophisticated and tend to cover heavier topics that interest teens, and increasingly, adults. The young adult area has become increasingly popular among all readers, as romance and paranormal (think Twilight), as well as dystopian (The Hunger Games) novels have turned into cultural phenomena, and have been adapted into major films.
The goal of Mamiverse Books is to provide you with answers to those how, what/which questions. The where becomes easier once you know what you are looking for—armed with these tools and information, you can confidently walk into a bookstore knowing exactly what you want for the children in your life. Perhaps you’ll even be a bit more open to discovering new books. In addition to reviews, Mamiverse Books will also include features, and interviews with authors, such as the one with New York Times best-selling Latina author R.J. Palacio, who discusses what inspired her to write her middle grade novel Wonder, and how her Latina background shapes her writing.
As mamis, we sometimes forget about the power we have over our children’s lives, and over our entire family; where mami goes, the rest of the family follows. What mami says is always heard (even if not instantly listened to!) and remembered; what she does is imitated. When I think back on my own childhood, I clearly remember always seeing a book on my mother’s night table. There were times when everything we needed was not as readily available as we would have liked, but books were always a staple. My mom always reinforced the importance of education, and I recall well her gentle and constant reminders that I was smart enough to achieve my goals. Is it any wonder then that I devoted my life to books and reading?
Together, we can help make sure that our Latino children succeed, by placing a book on each of their hands. So please, share this site and the resources it offers with your friends and family, and use it for entertainment, for teaching, and most importantly, to instill a love of books in the children in your life. There is truly no better way to commit to your child’s future success.
Start right now, sign our Pledge and promise to take at least 15 minutes out of your busy schedule each and every day to sit down and bond with your child over a book.
And to celebrate, go out and buy a book! Unlike a video game, a pair of shoes, or a blouse, I guarantee that you will never be sorry to spend your hard-earned money on something that will have such a tremendous impact on your child’s future. I cannot think of a better way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and National Books Month!
Finally, and because I want this to be a conversation that we all engage in for the sake of our children, I encourage you to send us your comments—I am sure that many of them will inspire future posts.
Welcome to Mamiverse Books! Happy reading!