Café Literario began its Fall 2021 session on Monday, September 13th. It was the group’s first in-person meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and members were grateful for the return to form.
“I just think that as human beings we need socialization, we need to be together in person,” said Delia Castillo, a member for nine years. “I think that’s so important because we’re like a small family here.”
Café Literario is a book club for JUSD parents coordinated by the Language Services Department. The group meets weekly to discuss a specific book, often selected by the parents themselves. Discussions happen primarily in Spanish, and members learn reading strategies taught in their own kids’ classrooms.
“Our goal is for them to have experienced these activities and these strategies that happen in the classroom so they can take them home,” shared Nancy Arroyo, Bilingual Resource Teacher. Ms. Arroyo has facilitated the Café Literario meetings for the past three years, but the club was established in 2006 by Martha Gomez, Director of Language Services. Her vision was to create a program for parents to connect with each other, develop a love for reading, and share that love with their children.
“I think the best part of this group is that it teaches you to be a model for your children,” shared Nelia Toledo, a member since 2010. “When my children see me reading, they think it’s something important to me and so it becomes important to them.”
In preparation for the first meeting, members read three chapters of
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, the Fall 2021 selection, which continues the theme of immigration that began in Spring 2021 with
Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario. During the September 13th meeting, members took turns reading passages aloud, then discussed them in large and small groups, sharing their opinions or answering questions provided by Ms. Arroyo. Many members shared personal experiences related to the book’s subject matter.
“To me, the fact that we can relate what’s in a book to what’s happening [in current events], it’s awesome just to see that connection,” shared Ms. Arroyo. “We can give our own perspective on things.”
Beyond that, members of the group develop strong friendships that thrive outside of the meeting space. Many parents whose children have graduated from JUSD high schools remain in the group because of the bonds they have formed. “I have two groups of friends that I go out to dinner with, tell jokes with, sing karaoke with, dance with, and do whatever with, and I found them here in Café Literario,” shared Maria Luisa Torres, a member whose four daughters have graduated. “Wherever I go they recognize me, and my husband asks me, ‘where do you know them from?’ And I tell him from Café Literario. That’s almost always the case.”
Café Literario is a place where parents can become literacy advocates while respectfully sharing different points of view and establishing lifelong connections. It is no wonder the program is still going strong after fifteen years.
“I’ve learned that it’s never too late to begin reading,” shared Neila Toledo. “I also feel that it’s important as housewives to have a place of our own where we can enrich ourselves culturally and open our minds to other opportunities. Every time someone opens a book, it’s like opening another world in their imagination.”
For more information about Café Literario, please visit the group's
. *Note: quotes from members have been translated to English from Spanish.