American Vernaculars in Children's Literature

American Vernaculars exhibit promo

Christian J Faltis. Spanglish Delight, Oil on Canvas, 18x24, 2009. Chinglish Forever, Oil on Canvas, 18x24, 2007.

The exhibit runs from January 6, 2014 to January 31, 2014 in the Children's Literature Center on the Fourth Floor of Pollak Library North.

About the Exhibit

 The Pollak Library is excited to kick off a new year of exploring critical issues in children's literature with an exhibit on American vernaculars in books of fiction for young readers.

Spanglish, African American English, and the English vernacular of American-born Chinese, represent a few examples of the rich vernaculars spoken by many of the children in our charge as educators. What role does children's literature play in this linguistic arena? Do children's literature authors and educators have a responsibility to make spaces for our children to explore and discuss the richness of language and its implicitness in the formation of identity? What messages and transmission of values vis-à-vis language, identity formation, and positioning in social roles has children's literature—historical and contemporary—offered?

These are some of the critical questions that January's Children's Literature Exhibit wishes to pose for your consideration. Educators agree that children's literature contains not only the power to mirror our social and cultural worlds, but it also has the potential to create imagined worlds that empower young readers to envision a better, more just world. Our diverse American vernaculars call for active participation in these worlds!

About the Curators

Dr. Sharon Chappell is an assistant professor in the department of Elementary and Bilingual Education at Cal State Fullerton. She specializes in diversity and curriculum issues, English language learning, bilingual education, and arts education. She also is interested in building communities of learners in online instruction. Retrieved from

Lettycia Terrones is the Education Librarian at the Pollak Library, Cal State Fullerton. She is interested in issues of diversity and spaces for critical pedagogy in children's literature.

Food for Thought: Critical Essays in Children's Literature

To accompany the exhibit, a selection of thought-provoking essays dealing with children's literature will be featured to complement the exhibit themes and works showcased.

In keeping with our exhibit theme of American vernaculars in children's literature, this month's Food for Thought article takes a look at how Latino children's literature uses language (via bilingualism and Spanglish) to carry messages--oftentimes reinforcing hegemonic models of cultural assimilation--about identity construction. In their examination, the authors ask: "How can we become active readers of these texts, 'talking back' to messages that may inform inaccurate, misleading, or incomplete portraits of the lives of bilingual children and their families?" (Chappell & Faltis, 2007, p. 260).

Featured Article

Chappell, S., & Faltis, C. (2007). Spanglish, bilingualism, culture and identity in Latino children's Literature. Children's Literature in Education, 38(4), 253-262. doi:10.1007/s10583-006-9035-z

Permanent links:

Curriculum Materials

Featured Artwork

Dr. Christian J. Faltis is Chris Faltis, a professor at the University of California Davis. Dr. Faltis is a co-author of this month’s featured article, Spanglish, bilingualism, culture and identity in Latino children’s Literature.  He paints about immigration, language, and culture.

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