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Literary Café thrives

— “My daughter went up in reading levels; she didn't used to like to read but now that she sees her mom reading, she reads too …"
— “Being a role model for my children is very important!  Being part of Café Literario is giving me the ability to do that."
— “I never used to pick up a book; I would just tell my kids to read because that's what the teachers told me they needed to do.  But now, we have reading time together."

Jurupa Unified's award-winning program Café Literario, or Literary Café, has empowered scores of parents to become stronger readers, model reading for their children, and bond with their kids over plotlines, protagonists and more.

Each semester, the free class, which centers on analyzing literature in a supportive group, meets at the Parent Center for two hours on Mondays for nine to 12 weeks.  JUSD provides the books, homework, lesson plans and other resources.  Parents provide ideas, imagination, discussion and introspection.

“The goal is to promote passion for reading, literature and cultural awareness at an adult level of readability and interest," said Irasema Guzmán, a bilingual resource teacher at JUSD.  “The discussions come from the parents' personal interaction with the reading."

Not only does the course instill a love of literature, but it also helps parents inspire their children to read, reflect, and learn about the world through books.  Reading for children is essential, foundational: Books help teach empathy, listening skills and fluency with the written word – a building block for learning in every subject. 

Reading also improves student success in critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. 

In Café Literario, parents choose the books.  Recent selections have included “The House on Mango Street," “I Am Malala" and “The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child." 

More broadly, themes in the reading range from historical to self-help to biographical and cultural.

“The program has become very effective because everyone is valued," said Ms. Guzmán.  “Respect for others is at the forefront.  The participants feel safe to share their thoughts, opinions and even their lack of understanding of a topic.  Café Literario has become a support group in many different ways for everyone."

By way of example, she said, parents helped each other learn to drive while reading “Once Upon a Cow," which addresses setting goals and overcoming fears, and provided emotional support while completing “The Kite Runner," which grapples with issues of physical abuse.

The Café Literario approach, pioneered by JUSD in 2006, has been replicated in several neighboring school districts – and earned Jurupa Unified a Model of Academic Excellence and Innovation award from the Riverside County Office of Education in 2016.

“Appreciating the value of literature and reading embodies learning without limits," Ms. Guzmán said.  “In Cafe Literario, we always discuss ways to help our families and communities to be all they can be and support their children's dreams."

Based on Jurupa Unified data, Café Literario increases the number of parents and children reading together; the number of parent and child reading-hours per week; the number and reading level of books in the home; and the number of visits to the public library to further expand family reading.

Moreover, said Ms. Guzmán, “The parents have gained confidence and speaking and leadership skills that have empowered them as parents and active school and community members and leaders.  The class discussions value their voice, opinions, culture, beliefs, and individuality."

The next session of Café Literario starts March 18.  For more information, contact Ms. Guzmán at