Celebrating Latinx Culture with a Spanish Reading Program (2022-2023)


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 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! 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.

Building on the work of the 2021-2022 team, this project team will 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. Duke students and participating families will discuss how to improve reading motivation among children and ways in which parents can support their children in maintaining the Spanish language. 

Team members will seek to build upon families’ cultural wealth, recognizing that everyone is a teacher and everyone is a learner. The meetings will include at least one parent and provide opportunities for children to read books in Spanish from Latin American authors, with books selected based on the preferences of each child. Each family will meet weekly with the same team member for one hour over seven sessions. Students will guide the interaction, acknowledging that parents and children are the experts in the language and furnishing a unique opportunity for egalitarian engagement. Each small group will discuss what the books are about, what each participant liked about the book, what they have learned and if it brought back any memories, among other subjects.

The team will employ participatory action research methods to explore the experiences of the participants in ¡Celebra Latinx! and improve the program. The team will evaluate the impact of the program using pre- and post-participation interviews and direct measurements. Team members will meet with families for a pre-participation interview to gain an understanding of each family’s strengths and needs (e.g., literacy levels, reading habits and motivation, cultural identity). To evaluate impact, the team will have a post-participation 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.

Anticipated Outputs

Journal article; policy brief 


Summer 2022 – Spring 2023

  • Summer 2022 (optional): Start analysis of previous year’s data; seek IRB approval
  • Fall 2022: Introduce reading program and pre- and post-intervention measures; start reading session preparation; review previous session plans; recruit families; conduct reading sessions; assess intervention
  • Spring 2023: Recruit new families; replicate intervention; collect and analyze data; prepare article for publication
  • Summer 2023 (optional): Continue data analysis; send article for publication

This Team in the News

Meet the Members of the 2022-2023 Student Advisory Council

See earlier related team, Celebrating Latinx Culture with a Spanish Reading Program (2021-2022).

Image: By S. Davis, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Child reading book in Spanish.

Team Leaders

  • Laura Andrade, Sanford School of Public Policy-Center for Child and Family Policy
  • Joan Clifford, Arts & Sciences-Romance Studies
  • Stephanie Contreras, Arts & Sciences-Romance Studies
  • Silvia Serrano, Arts & Sciences-Romance Studies
  • Maia Szulik, Center for Child and Family Policy, Sanford School of Public Policy

/graduate Team Members

  • Veronica Cora-Castillo, Romance Studies-PHD
  • Mauricio Hernandez, Environment-PHD
  • Ofelia Lopez, Romance Studies-AM, Romance Studies-PHD
  • Riley Selig-Addiss, Masters of Public Policy

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Aisha Baiocchi, Robertson Scholarship - UNC
  • Phoebe Ducote
  • Kamdon Early, History (AB)
  • Bella Echols
  • Abigail Eun, Computer Science (BS), Public Policy Studies (AB2)
  • Melody Gao, History (AB)
  • Kathryn Lewis, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Mia Murphy, Romance Studies (AB)
  • Aisha Ovando Fernandez
  • Calista Ringas

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Robert Carr, Sanford School of Public Policy-Center for Child and Family Policy
  • Marie Chelini, Arts & Sciences-Evolutionary Anthropology
  • Megan Gray, Social Science Research Institute
  • Katie Rosanbalm, Sanford School of Public Policy-Center for Child and Family Policy
  • Jessica Sperling Smokoski, Social Science Research Institute
  • Carlos Taboada, Pratt School of Engineering-Biomedical Engineering

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Nicolas Andrade, University of Mar del Plata, Argentina
  • Leigh Bordley, Latino Educational Achievement Partnership
  • Book Harvest
  • Iglesia Presbiteriana Emanuel
  • First Book
  • Scholastic
  • Durham Public Library
  • Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
  • Lakewood Elementary
  • Celeste Luna, Latinx Arts Boston