Puerto Rico Critical Literacy Project

Puerto Rico Critical Literacy Project

In 2019, Professors Carmen Lilian Medina (Indiana University) and Maria del Rocio Costa (University of Puerto Rico Bayamon, UPRB) started the Puerto Rico Critical Literacy (PRCL) Project which focuses on developing literacy skills using Latin American and Caribbean children’s literature.

PRCL has enhanced the children’s literature taught by Dr. Costa, using student teachers enrolled in the elementary educational program and in-service teachers in their classrooms, benefitting over 100 elementary school children.

The project adjusted to the earthquakes and COVID-19, both occurring months apart from each other by making its workshops available as webinars. Webinars on “Teaching in Time of Crisis” and Latin American and Caribbean children’s literature received over 500 Facebook Live views. Motivated by the success of the program, Professor Medina is looking into bringing it to IU Northwest, a Hispanic Serving Institution, and including Indigenous children’s literature to increase the project’s impact.

The overall project across the last 3 years has impacted several communities.

Historical Context and Justification

This collaborative project supports Puerto Rican teacher candidates, in-service teachers and elementary school students’ critical literacy pedagogies focusing on literacy inquiries into local social struggles contextualizing them into a Latin American and Caribbean perspective using children’s literature.

This initiative is in response to the challenges Puerto Rican teachers face as they are asked to implement United States federal educational initiatives, such as, Common Core, Teaching Values, etc. ,in local schools that do not necessarily take into consideration the cultural connections between Puerto Rico and other Latin American cultural contexts.

Pedagogical Foundations

We draw upon a “culturally sustaining” (Paris, 2011) “critical literacy theory of instruction” (Leland, Lewison and Harste, 2013; Freire, 1970) that uses learners’ personal experiences, local histories and larger social histories (such as Latin American social struggles) in literacy pedagogies to explore potential ways to envision the transformation of inequities in current Puerto Rican realities. As Vásquez, Albers, and Harste’s (2014) work illustrates, when children can engage critically with texts that relate to their immediate realities and larger associated histories, even young children become participants in a different kind of reading and writing community where they can consider both the social effects of texts while analyzing the social context and effects of everyday experiences (Luke & Freebody, 1999).

Our Focus

Our main focus has been on using Latin American and Caribbean children’s literature to create curricular inquiries to develop an understanding of the local current social and political situation relating to how communities in the Caribbean and Latin America have lived through social struggles. To engage on this critical literacy work, we rely on the abundance of children’s literature found in Latin America and the Caribbean emphasizing different social struggles.


The project has included enhancing the children’s literature collection from Latin America and the Caribbean.