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Monday, January 26th, 2015

The Sofia Martinez Series: Chapter Books for Early Readers

By
Sofia Martinez

Today is Multicultural Children’s Book Day and what better way to celebrate than with a wonderful series, “Sofia Martinez” from Picture Window Books (a Capstone Imprint), written by Jacqueline Jules and illustrated by Kim Smith.

 

We read the book “My Family Adventure (Sofia Martinez)” which is part of the series, whose protagonist is a seven-year-old Latina, Sofia. Sofia’s life centers around her big family, and the stories detail her little everyday adventures.

 

There are three stories in this book, each about three small chapters long. With text in big font sizes and with generous spacing, typical of early (independent) reader books, the series is very appropriate for five to seven year olds. In the first story Sofia seeks to be different from her sisters and tries to get the attention of her family. In the second and third episodes we see Sofia and her cousins trying to get out of funny predicaments. The episodes were engaging enough for my six year old–his favorite was the “The Missing Mouse” in which Sofia loses Snowflake (the mouse) but manages to trap him back with a simple plan.

 

The Martinez sisters are all brown-skinned with long dark hair. This allows for many non-white kids to see themselves in the stories. There’s a clear shortage of books that feature children of color, particularly in stories that are not necessarily on holidays and historic events, and this light-hearted read attempts to address that. There are also several cultural references in the anecdotes, like when the kids work on a piñata to surprise Abuela on her birthday. There are colorful caricature-like illustrations on every other page to support the story and help ‘transition’ readers.

 

But the highlight is the ‘gentle’ bilingual aspect of the narrative. Commonly used Spanish words are included in many dialogues (highlighted in a different color to set them apart from words in English). Some of them are repetitive, reinforcing and encouraging the reader to learn new words. There is a glossary that gives the meaning for the Spanish words and makes the learning complete. Tia (Aunt), gato (cat), aqui (here), hermosa (beautiful) are some of the words that my son and I picked up!

 

To sum up, this book is an engaging early reader chapter book with a central character of color, and with a narrative that integrates language and cultural nuances wonderfully, making it a great addition towards a diverse bookshelf.

 

 

Why celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day?

 

Despite census data that shows 37% of the U.S. population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using Multicultural Children’s Book Day, the creators and supporters are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is to create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers and libraries.

 

Who is behind it?

 

The co-creators of this unique event are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press. You can find a bio for Mia and Valarie here.

 

MCCBD’s 2015 Sponsors include MCCBD’s  2015 Sponsors include Platinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales Press, Daybreak Press Global Bookshop, Gold SponsorsSatya House,  MulticulturalKids.com,   Author Stephen Hodges and the Magic Poof, Silver Sponsors: Junior Library GuildCapstone Publishing, Lee and Low Books,  The Omnibus Publishing. Bronze Sponsors:Double Dutch Dolls, Bliss Group Books, Author Richa Jha,  Rainbow Books,   Author FeliciaCapers,   Chronicle Books   Muslim Writers Publishing ,East West Discovery Press.

 

MCCBD CoHosts: We have NINE amazing co-hosts. You can view them below.

 

Africa to America
All Done Monkey
The Educators’ Spin on It
Growing Book by Book
InCultural Parent
Kid World Citizen
Mama Smiles
Multicultural Kid Blogs
Sprout’s Bookshelf

 

What else?

 

First Book

 

MCCBD is also partnering with First Book to offer a Virtual Book Drive that will help donate multicultural children’s books through their channels during the week of the event. We want to help get diversity books into the hands of kids who most need it and now we have a way to do it! The Virtual Book Drive is LIVE and can be found HERE.

 

Children’s Book Council:

 

MCCBD is collaborating with Children’s Book Council to highlight wonderful diversity books and authors on an ongoing basis all year.

 

How to celebrate?

 

Here are a few ways:

  1. Read a multicultural children’s book
  2. Share a multicultural book with a friend
  3. Donate a multicultural book to a classroom or library
  4. Ask your neighborhood bookstore to showcase and sell more multicultural books
  5. Support and promote local authors of color

 

Finally, here are two relevant articles on the importance of reading multicultural children’s literature and why reading multicultural books to your child matters.

 

© 2015, Meera Sriram. All rights reserved.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Meera Sriram has been reviewing and recommending diverse children’s literature for about ten years now. She loves to pass on a title or an author to a friend (or a stranger, for that matter). Picture books particularly appeal to the inner child in her. She moved to the U.S. at the turn of the millennium from India. After graduate studies and a brief stint as an electrical engineer, she decided to express herself in other creative ways, primarily through writing. She has co-authored four books for children, all published in India. Her writing interests include people and cultures, nature, and life’s everyday moments. She also runs an early literacy program for toddlers and preschoolers in her neighboring communities. She lives in Berkeley, CA, with her husband and two kids. Curling up to read a good book with her children is something she looks forward to every day. She constantly fantasizes about a world with no boundaries over hot chai, to help her stay warm in foggy Northern California. More at www.meerasriram.com.

Leave us a comment!

1 Comment
  1. CommentsBest Children’s Books featuring Multicultural Characters | Pack-n-Go Girls   |  Thursday, 14 January 2016 at 6:55 am

    […] InCultureParent has a multitude of book reviews for parents raising little global citizens. Most of them feature multicultural characters, and a few really caught my eye. The Sofia Martinez series, an early chapter book series, features a seven-year-old Latina girl facing everyday challenges and getting out of funny predicaments. I love books with strong female characters! And along that note, I also noticed My Friend Mei Jing, a book that celebrates cross-cultural friendship. Told from the perspective of Monifa, who’s family is originally from Nigeria, she and Mei Jing from China discover how similar, yet different, their cultural practices and customs are. I also had to check out their list 10 Multicultural Children’s Books that Make Adults Cry. Not that I like to cry all that much, but these must be compelling reads. This list features multicultural characters from the US (African-American, Hispanic, and Native American), Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, Somalia, Poland, and Korea. Plus, there are some great historical insights from these books. […]









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