Celebrating Latinx Culture with a Spanish Reading Program (2021-2022)


Latinx children growing up in the U.S. often struggle with defining their own identity while navigating values and expectations of two different cultures. Given the lack of prestige and rejection of their language and culture by the dominant community, many Latinx students internalize feelings of linguistic and cultural inferiority during the early stages of reading and speaking in English. This sometimes leaves Spanish relegated to a second-class status used only in familial contexts, commonly leading to the loss of Spanish. Among the most relevant consequences related to the loss of Spanish are poor self-image and cultural identity, eroding family relationships, compromised school relationships and lower school performance.

Programs that support a sense of pride in the Spanish language and Latinx culture and include instruction in reading and writing in Spanish are scarce. Programs that work to deepen Latinx children’s connections with their cultural heritage and support children to build a healthy bicultural identity should be implemented to boost confidence in their capacities and promote bilingualism. In addition, this kind of program brings families together and can eventually have an impact in the educational outcomes of Latinx children.

Project Description

¡Celebra Latinx! celebrates Latinx cultural heritage and being bilingual. It promotes the forging of relationships through shared language journeys. ¡Celebra Latinx! engages and connects Spanish-language users, namely Latinx children and undergraduate students, as “peer tutors” and supports them as they create spaces of belonging where speaking and reading together in Spanish builds community. 

This program aims to support Latinx children’s pride in their languages and cultures; prevent the loss of Spanish among Latinx children; encourage the practice of reading and writing in Spanish; provide opportunities for students to practice their communication skills in Spanish with native speakers; and support parents in communicating their deep connections with the Latinx cultural heritage to their children.

Team members will seek to build upon families’ cultural wealth, recognizing that everyone is a teacher and everyone is a learner. This program will also support student’s understanding of Latinx cultural heritage by increasing access to Latin American reading material and films, and through structured interactions with Latinx parents. Students will have the opportunity to strengthen their understanding of the socio-political context of language learning.

The reading meetings will include at least one parent and provide opportunities for children to read Latinx and Latin American material in Spanish, including books, poems and songs. The team will provide access to Latinx films for families to watch together, opening opportunities for discussions and writing practices. Each family will meet weekly with the same team member for one hour over eight to ten sessions, in person or online if necessary. Students will guide the interaction acknowledging that parents and children are the experts in the language and furnishing a unique opportunity for egalitarian engagement.

We will employ qualitative research methodology to explore the experiences of the participants in ¡Celebra Latinx!. We will also evaluate the impact of our program using pre- and post-intervention interviews and direct measurements. The team will meet with families for a pre-intervention interview to gain an understanding of each family’s strengths and needs and to assess different family aspects (e.g., literacy levels, reading habits, parent involvement in their children’s education, cultural identity). To evaluate impact, the team will have a post-intervention interview with families and compare the same aspects before and after the intervention. A control group will consist of families that only receive books in Spanish and do not meet with the peer tutors. 

Learn more about this project team by viewing the team's video.

Anticipated Outputs

Academic article(s); evaluation of program’s impact on participating children, parents and peer tutors

Student Opportunities

Ideally, this project team will be comprised of 2 graduate students and 15 undergraduate students. It would be ideal to have a diverse team of students interested in working with the Latinx community, ranging from students in the social sciences interested in learning how to carry out a research project and/or learning about the challenges this community faces in the U.S. from a public policy perspective; students in humanities interested in cultural expression; students in global health interested in community well-being; and others interested in extending their professional services to the Latinx community and interacting with native speakers of Spanish. 

Undergraduate students must have an advanced proficiency (level 300+) in Spanish and a deep understanding of the importance of racial equity. They must be willing to learn how to celebrate and embrace diversity and gain cultural sensitivity and competency.

Students will gain experience working with Latinx families, learning about their strengths and needs. This will be particularly important for those students interested in public policy, social justice and racial equity and will be a great opportunity to learn how to celebrate diversity and for civic engagement. Students interested in learning more about the challenges Latinx youth face in education will have the chance to take Spanish 307S: Issues of Education and Immigration taught by Joan Clifford.

Team leaders and collaborators will provide tools to help students build positive relationships with children and learn how to work with Latinx families. The team will meet weekly to share experiences and discuss any obstacles, reflecting on the challenges that the Latinx communities face across the country and discussing ways to embrace diversity and support the maintenance of multiple cultures. 

In Fall 2021, the team will meet on Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m.

The team will create surveys for impact evaluation. Undergraduate students will be responsible for collecting data, and two of them will oversee, write weekly reports and keep track of progress. Graduate students will review literature and analyze data. 

Students will gain increased awareness about racial justice and equity as well as opportunities for civic engagement and social research. They will also build confidence in their communication skills in Spanish.

A graduate student will be selected to serve as project manager.


Fall 2021 – Spring 2022 

  • Fall 2021: Go over project and intervention measures; seek IRB approval; work on additional exploratory postintervention items and program satisfaction survey; learn about Latinx traditions, literature and films; choose books for different levels in Spanish; select songs, poems and films; prepare to work with children and families; recruit families; conduct reading sessions; assess intervention
  • Spring 2022: Enroll in optional course, Spanish 307S; recruit new families and replicate intervention; collect, analyze and discuss all data; write article for publication

This Team in the News

Making the Most of Duke, Summer 2021


Academic credit available for fall and spring semesters


Image: Libreria Paradiso, Gijón, by Marisa Ortún, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Libreria Paradiso, Gijón.

Team Leaders

  • Laura Andrade, Sanford School of Public Policy-Center for Child and Family Policy
  • Joan Clifford, Arts & Sciences-Romance Studies

/graduate Team Members

  • Olivia Bond, Masters of Public Policy
  • Mauricio Hernandez, Environment-PHD
  • Ofelia Lopez, Romance Studies-AM, Romance Studies-PHD
  • Carvajal Rojas, Biology - PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Melody Gao, History (AB)
  • Isabel Lewin-Knauer, History (AB), Spanish (AB2)
  • Victoria McReynolds, Biology (BS)
  • Mia Murphy, Romance Studies (AB), Global Health (AB2)
  • Sofia Silvosa
  • Rory Smith
  • Sanceray Smith
  • Caleb Watson, Biology (BS), Computer Science (BS2)
  • Cabell Whitlow, Psychology (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Miguel Rojas Sotelo, Center for International and Global Studies-Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies
  • Katie Rosanbalm, Sanford School of Public Policy-Center for Child and Family Policy

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Nicolas Andrade, University of Mar del Plata, Argentina
  • Leigh Bordley, Latino Educational Achievement Partnership
  • Iglesia Presbiteriana Emanuel
  • Durham County Library
  • Book Harvest
  • Lakewood Elementary
  • Iglesia Inmaculada Concepción
  • Celeste Luna, Latinx Arts Boston
  • Seth Napier, Coach for College
  • Rafael Osuba, Artist Studio Project