Monday, January 26th, 2015
The Sofia Martinez Series: Chapter Books for Early Readers
By Meera Sriram
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?
MCCBD’s 2015 Sponsors include MCCBD’s 2015 Sponsors include Platinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales Press, Daybreak Press Global Bookshop, Gold Sponsors: Satya House, MulticulturalKids.com, Author Stephen Hodges and the Magic Poof, Silver Sponsors: Junior Library Guild, Capstone 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.
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:
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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