Spanish-speaking, Mexican American parents participated in a literacy workshop in which they created short, personal letters called cartitas de cariño for their children. This paper reports on the content of their texts, which included drawings and messages that reflected the cultural norms and traditions of the families. Using a socio-historical lens, the authors show how the parents’ cartitas de cariño functioned as a tool of cultural and social mediation by communicating their affection and emotional support as well as the scholastic and behavioral expectations parents had for their children. This population (i.e., Spanish-speaking Latinos of the working poor class) is frequently relegated to studies on cultural, social, or educational deficiency. Based on the evidence from the cartitas de cariño, we affirm that Mexican parents, irrespective of their prior schooling or economic status, value literacy as a tool for cultural transmission as well as a form of self-expression, and they readily engage in literacy practices with their children when afforded the opportunity.
Keywords: Diversity, Literacy, Writing, Elementary, School/Community