Pura Belpré

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“Books transmit values. They explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in these books?” – Walter Dean Myers

Pura Belpré was the first Puerto Rican public librarian in New York City.

That’s not all: as this NPR tribute recounts, “Belpré could not find any books in Spanish – so she wrote them herself.”

Moreover:

Belpré travelled all over the city, from the Bronx to the Lower East Side, telling stories with puppets in Spanish and English. Nobody was doing that back then.

Today there is an award in her name, given each year by the American Library Association, to honor a Latino author.

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The chances of winning this prize are, alas, not as slim as they should be: “the proportion of books for kids by Latino authors is so “shockingly low” that “it’s insane,” says the award official.

The problem is even larger. “Children’s and young adult literature… represent a stubbornly white world even as U.S. children are increasingly people of color,” Amy Rothchild concludes in FiveThirtyEight.

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Walter Dean Myers, the esteemed young adult author, offers poignant perspective in his New York Times op-ed:

In 1969, when I first entered the world of writing children’s literature, the field was nearly empty. Children of color were not represented, nor were children from the lower economic classes. Today, when about 40 percent of public school students nationwide are black and Latino, the disparity of of representation is even more egregious. In the middle of the night I ask myself if anyone really cares.

Ms. Belpré needs your – our – help.