University of Alabama professor helps ‘Sesame Street’ reach Latinos

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    Jamie Naidoo’s blog on children’s literature sparked the interest of the producers of “Sesame Street.” (Photo by University of Alabama)

    Jamie Naidoo, a University of Alabama assistant professor, is helping “Sesame Street” reach a Latino audience. (Photo by University of Alabama)

    A professor’s blog on Latino children’s literature sparked the interest of the producers of “Sesame Street.”

    After Rocío Galarza, the show’s senior director of content planning and design for outreach, read University of Alabama assistant professor Jamie Naidoo’s blog in early February she contacted him to work as a consultant.

    Naidoo directs the National Latino Children’s Literature Conference, which he co-developed in 2007 as a way to help educators and librarians learn how to meet the informational, reading and cultural literacy needs of Latino children. He also runs ¡Imagínense Libros! a review blog of Latino children’s and young adult literature.

    “I am passionate about effecting positive social change in the world,” Naidoo said.

    Galarza said Naidoo’s knowledge on Latinos and children’s literature was a perfect fit for their new initiative to reach out to the growing U.S. Latino population.

    He was one of four expert consultants to the show who discussed how to incorporate authentic and accurate portrayals of Latino cultures into the “Sesame Street” brand through multiple platforms.

    “I made broad suggestions as well as very specific suggestions on how specific “Sesame Street” characters could better represent the Latin cultures,” he said.

    Naidoo’s efforts to educate the public on Latino children literacy isn’t going to be easy. In recent years many states have taken on measures and laws that affect Latinos.

    Many Latinos fled the state of Alabama fearing immigration law HB 56, which would require police who make lawful traffic stops or arrests to check for immigration status.

    Several provisions to the law have been temporarily blocked by federal appeals court- one such provisions would have allowed officials to check the status of children in public schools.

    Earlier this year Arizona’s Tucson Unified School District banned Mexican-American-studies because it goes against a new state law.

    Naidoo will continue to work with the show’s initiative and is excited about what his experience on Latino culture can bring to the well-known children’s show.

    “The Latino population in the U.S. is rapidly increasing, but our children today, particularly those in Alabama, often encounter negative or stereotypical images of Latinos in media. By working with publishers and TV producers of children’s media to improve their Latino content and appeal to young children, I am providing opportunities for non-Latino children to make intercultural connections with their Latino counterparts,” he said.

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