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Selecting Culturally Authentic Children’s Books
—Julia López-Robertson

About the Author

Julia López-Robertson is Professor of Instruction and Teacher Education at the University of South Carolina. Her scholarly interests are built on a commitment to children, families, and teachers to advance understandings of bilingual/multilingual students. Her work has been published in Language Arts and The Bilingual Research Journal, among other journals.

Expert Idea

Selecting Culturally Authentic Children’s Books

Increasingly, we find a broad range of children’s books to use in our classrooms—books that depict and help young readers explore a variety of cultures, languages, and ways of being in the world. As children read, we want them to connect with authentically described characters and traditions rather than view people from cultures different from their own as “exotic” or “foreign.” In short, book selection matters. When books are haphazardly selected, we risk reinforcing stereotypes. Selecting quality Latinx literature involves close reading and careful analysis for cultural authenticity.

So how do we know if a book is authentic? In 2007, Jamie Naidoo and I interviewed bilingual book publishers of and experts in Latinx children’s literature to gain a better understanding of issues in writing, illustrating, and publishing bilingual books. From our research, we concluded that cultural authenticity in Latinx literature is a fusion of elements that we called el sabor or “flavor.” Consider the following guiding questions when determining whether a piece of literature carries el sabor:

  • Does the story come alive and carry the nuances of the culture?
  • Does it help you to better understand your own culture?
  • Can you identify with the book and its themes?
  • Does it help you to better understand a culture different from your own and teach you something about that culture?

Engaging children with carefully selected, culturally responsive literature helps them understand that everyone has a story to tell and that those stories are to be valued and appreciated. Children have the right to see themselves represented in quality, authentic literature that is shared in their schools and communities.

Teach It

Download for criteria to follow when selecting Latinx literature Image

Download for criteria to follow when selecting Latinx literature.

Download for how to analyze texts for authenticity image

Download for how to analyze texts for authenticity.


Learn More

  • Read a Sample Chapter
    Please enjoy Chapter Three of Celebrating Our Cuentos for more on cultural authenticity and book selection criteria.
  • Order the Book
    Click here to order Celebrating Our Cuentos: Choosing and Using Latinx Literature in Elementary Classrooms.