Engaging Latinx Parents

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Why Family Engagement and Latinx Families?

The nation’s Latinx population is an estimated 58.9 million people and is predicted to comprise 29% of the U.S. population by 2060. This growing demographic represents a diverse range of experiences, dialects, and academic and economic backgrounds. Concerningly, disparities still persist across the academic continuum for the nation’s Latinx families. Note: The term Latinx is used to refer to a person of Latin American origin or descent. It is a gender-neutral or nonbinary alternative to Latino and Latina.

Why is this Work Important?

Public libraries are ideal settings for family engagement in education across the age spectrum, but unlike traditional educational and early childhood settings, they have not embraced their potential to reach all families, particularly those from underrepresented groups such as the Latinx community. Latinx community members are less likely than other Americans to have ever visited a U.S. public library and are much less likely to say that they see it as “very easy” to do so. Research suggests that numerous factors such as language and cultural barriers, a lack of familiarity with and misconceptions about libraries, and potential mistrust of government can be barriers to library access for Latinx families. However, when Latinx community members are engaged with libraries, they are more likely than other groups to voice their appreciation for library offerings suggesting that improved access to resources, increased authentic engagement, and responsive library resources are critical to increased use by Latinx communities.

Current Activities

IMLS Grant Award

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National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) logo
Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) logo

On July 23, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) announced that the Public Library Association (PLA) and the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) received a planning grant (September 1, 2020–June 2021) under the National Leadership Grants for Libraries category. This planning grant, “Exploring a Program Co-Design Approach to Better Serve and Engage Low-income, Latinx Communities,” made to the American Library Association, is part of an IMLS $18.2 million investment in U.S. library initiatives, meant to support projects that address significant challenges and opportunities facing the library field and have the potential to advance theory and practice with new tools, research findings, models, services, practices, or alliances that will be widely used.

PLA and NCFL will develop and document methods for how library staff can support authentic Latinx parent participation. Working in three (urban, suburban, and rural) locations, PLA and NCFL will co-design a process to involve Latinx parents in creating services designed for them.

The co-design process, involving recipients of services in the creation of those services, will identify culturally-responsive practices and resources that fully and authentically engage historically marginalized Latinx communities in library programs. This strategy aligns with components of the family engagement (PDF) framework urging libraries to “raise up” family voices, elevating family perspectives to develop and improve programs and services. The project will work with the Dallas Public Library, Arapahoe Libraries (Sheridan, CO), and Forest Grove City Library (OR) and Latinx families in their communities (PDF).

Research and Planning

Beginning in October 2020, the project will undertake an environmental scan and engage in community-based learning with library staff and parents. The intent is to generate strategies and practices for authentic parent participation and identify approaches and best practices that can be piloted on a national scale. Early in 2021, PLA and NCFL will work with the participating libraries to convene focus groups of Latinx parents who are both library users and nonusers for additional research.

Share Your Program Examples

PLA and NCFL are seeking input into their IMLS grant funded project, "Exploring a Program Co-Design Approach to Better Serve and Engage Low-income, Latinx Communities".

Please use this form to provide project leaders with examples of model programs or services, through which a library or community agency has authentically engaged Latinx families. Please also use this form to suggest articles, web sites, or other resources that the project should investigate as part of its environmental scan.

Key Terms and Resources


Language Justice