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Libros for Language: Texts to Support Translanguaging in the Classroom

More and more, children bring additional languages to the contexts where they live, learn, and play. The vast majority of the books available to them in their schools and local libraries, however, continue to privilege the monolingual use of English. This striking discrepancy ignores the ways in which multilingualism provides children with rich opportunities to participate productively in a global society, as well as the valuable resource that stems from students’ experiences with multilingualism. In the field of bilingual education, the concept of translanguaging highlights how in reality, rather than keep languages separate, multilingual people mix and mingle all of their linguistic skills and knowledge in various contexts. Additionally, scholarship in translanguaging has demonstrated bilingual children’s unique ability to strategically use their full linguistic repertoire to make meaning, and has also supported teachers in developing pedagogies to support such fluid language practices.

To support these practices, we are excited to launch a new web resource called Libros for Language, (www.librosforlanguage.org), a searchable bibliography of children’s literature that librarians, educators, and community members can use to promote multilingualism and translanguaging. Created with the support of ALA’s Carnegie Whitney grant, the site currently showcases 34 high-quality children’s picture book titles that can be used to demonstrate the power of translanguaging practices, with chapter books and more picture book titles to come. 

What is translanguaging and how can it support literacy development?

Translanguaging is a natural phenomenon in which bilingual and multilingual people draw from all their linguistic resources to make meaning, mixing and integrating their languages in fluid, dynamic ways depending on context and purpose. Translanguaging is also a powerful teaching tool, with which librarians and teachers (both monolingual and multilingual) can create learning spaces that embrace all forms of linguistic expression.

Some purposes of a translanguaging pedagogy include: 

  • Analyzing the authors’ and illustrators’ linguistic choices in order to facilitate discussion with readers about why, how, and when, we use different languages
  • Showing readers examples of how and why they can use multiple languages in their own writing
  • Discussing with readers how incorporating multiple languages can help writers solve problems of authenticity or accuracy, or express their culture and creativity more powerfully

The books included in this website are examples of authors and illustrators who incorporate LOTE (Languages Other Than English) in their work, just as all multilingual people do in their daily lives. As we built the site and analyzed high-quality picture books, we noticed a variety in the ways authors and illustrators used translanguaging while they wrote and created their visuals. We created a typology that outlines some of these differences that are explained in more detail on the website. By more closely analyzing the specific ways translanguaging can happen in books, we hope librarians and teachers can create a more detailed plan for how to discuss with students the linguistic choices authors make and the ways students can shape and craft their own multilingual writing. 

How can this site be used?

We created this site as a resource for both monolingual and bilingual educators to find high-quality picture books that would help them support translanguaging in their work with children. You don’t need to be multilingual to use this website or read the books included. It is meant to serve as a digital bibliography with some key information to guide your selections (for example, users can browse by genre, grade level, or language). We do not offer specific curriculum ideas or lesson plans to accompany the texts, because we believe the best way to implement a book will depend on the needs of particular readers, educators, and contexts. We also believe in professional autonomy and expertise, and offer a variety of resources to help guide your study of translanguaging. 

We invite you to submit your ideas, lesson plans, vignettes, and other work to be included in our information about each book. Over time, we hope the site can become a repository for the exchange of teachers’ and librarians’ collective knowledge and expertise in utilizing multilingual texts. 

Meg Burns is an Associate Professor of TESOL and Bilingual Education at Lesley University, specializing in the theoretical and pedagogical foundations of bilingual education, as well as issues of culture, race, and power in linguistically diverse settings.

Grace Enriquez is a Professor of Language and Literacy at Lesley University, whose scholarship centers on children’s literature for social justice, critical literacies, reader response, and intersections of literacies and embodiment.

Manny Ikomi is a BFA Interactive Design candidate at Lesley University focusing on user experience and design for the web platform.

Jadzia Genece is a graphic designer with a deep love of dynamism, maximalism, and colloquialisms.


This blog post was written on behalf of the School-Age Programs and Services Committee.


This post address the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group, II. Reference and User Services, IV. Collection Knowledge and Management

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