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May 7, 2018

10+ Culturally Authentic Books to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage

By Sandra Carrillo
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    "A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people."

    — Mahatma Gandhi

    Last month I had the honor and privilege of celebrating my Grandma Lucy's 99th birthday! As I sat visiting with her, I began to reminisce about special childhood memories and the countless times I spent playing on the front porch with my siblings and cousins. I found myself humming as a sea of songs and rhymes filled my mind. I was transported to a time when family gatherings were frequent, the sounds of laughter echoed throughout the neighborhood, and the savory smells of traditional Mexican cooking drifted from the kitchen.

    Living on the border of Mexico and the United States, and specifically in El Paso, Texas, many of us share similar treasured memories. However, while our remembrances might be very alike, there is still diversity in each story that is told and in every tradition that is practiced. Every generation passes down its traditions, changing details ever so slightly. 

    As educators, we try to expose our students to different cultures and traditions throughout the year. Because of my Hispanic background, I wanted to share resources that explore that rich heritage. From a wealth of books available, I chose ones that were diverse and authentic in language, illustrations, and story lines.

    These titles are not only in English and Spanish, but can all be found on the Teacher Store. Additionally, during the month of May you can take up to 30 percent off of the list price! And while the end of the school year is quickly approaching, now is the perfect time to plan ahead for next year and make sure your classroom library is well stocked with diverse and authentic books.

    Here is my recommended list:

    1.  Tortillitas para mamá and Other Nursery Rhymes (Bilingual Edition in Spanish and English) by Betsy L. Bucks, illustrated by Barbara Cooney

    Once I read the title I immediately started reciting the beloved poem that my grandmother used to sing to me as a child and that I, in turn sang to my own children. This book is a collection of Latin American nursery rhymes, which have been passed on from generation to generation. Many of the rhymes are accompanied with instructions for finger plays. Cooney's beautiful and authentic illustrations add to the charm of this warm collection of Hispanic nursery rhymes and lullabies.    

    2.  Too Many Tamales / ¡Qué montón de tamales! by Gary Soto and Ed Martinez

    For many Mexican-American families, making tamales is a Christmas tradition. In Texas, it wouldn't be Christmas without tamales! A tamale-making party or tamalada is the ritual of family members gathering in the kitchen, each partaking in an assigned role to make this delicious holiday meal. This beloved story takes place on Christmas Eve. While Maria and her cousins are helping in the kitchen, Maria decides to try on her mother's ring. (I can relate to spending hours admiring my own mother's diamond wedding ring sparkling in the light!) Hours later she realizes that it is missing! Could it be in one of the tamales?!  

               

    3.  A Birthday Basket For Tia by Pat Mora, illustrated by Cecily Lang

    I could not create this list without including author Mora, a native of El Paso. Mora is a Mexican-American poet and author of many children's books. Her work is shaped by her life experiences of living on the Mexico-United States border. A Birthday Basket for Tia follows Cecilia and her pet cat, Chica, as they put together a heartfelt gift to celebrate Cecilia's great-aunt's 90th birthday! Cecilia teaches us that the best gifts are not always store bought!

     

    4.  Book Fiesta! by Pat Mora

    "Hooray! Today is our day, ¡El día de los niños!" In Mexico, Children's Day is celebrated on April 30. In 1997, Mora expanded the cause for celebration to include childhood literacy. Hence, El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Day of the Child/Day of the Book) was established. Book Fiesta! sends the message that reading is fun all day, every day!

    Please note that the author will donate a portion of the proceeds from this book to literacy initiatives related to Children's Day/Book Day!

     

    5.  The Day of the Dead/ El Día de los Muertos: A Bilingual Celebration by Bob Barner, Teresa Mlawer (translator)

    The Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout the country and by people of Mexican descent living in other places, especially the United States. The celebration is a time to honor the dead. It begins on October 31 and ends on November 2. The Spanish tradition might include festivals and parades, as well as gatherings of families at cemeteries to pray for the souls of the departed. Special altars are displayed containing photos, memorabilia, and the favorite foods and beverages of departed loved ones.

    This book follows two children as they celebrate their ancestors on this special holiday. They offer sugar skulls, special bread and marigolds. Then, by spreading marigold petals, they help guide the dead home to join the celebration. This will be a welcomed addition to your library! With the success and popularity of the movie Coco, more and more children will share in the understanding of this Mexican tradition.

    6.  Mice and Beans/Arroz con frijoles by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Joe Cepeda

    This book includes all types of fun all rolled up into one! Children love hearing stories about planning birthday parties and coming together with family and friends. But what makes this story even more compelling are the loveable little mice who are planning their own party! This story keeps children engaged until the very end and concludes with a special message: "When there is room in the heart, there's room in the house, EVEN for a mouse." 

     

    7.  La piñata/The Piñata by Rita Rosa Ruesga, illustrated by Soledad Sebastián

    This collaboration between Scholastic and Latin Grammy nominee Ruesga includes traditional Hispanic songs for all ages. Each song is accompanied with a brief description of its origin. In addition to the beautiful illustrations, the book also  includes links that can be downloaded, guitar chords, and music notations! What a treat! Highly recommended!

    8.  Colores de la vida by Cynthia Weill and ABeCedarios (in Spanish and English) by Cynthia Weill, illustrated by Moises and Armando Jimenez

    Young children love animals, bright colors and words! Colores de la vida combines all of these elements to create a joyful book for children. The pages are filled with Mexican folk art and is in English and Spanish. I also included ABeCedarios which is a beautiful book that includes wonderful illustrations of hand-carved animals for each letter of the alphabet, including letters unique to Spanish. Both of these books are part of the Oaxacan Folk Arts series.

    My last two choices focus on famous Latina women who have contributed to the Mexican culture and history. It is important that our children learn these names from a very young age and that we celebrate their contributions!

    9.  Frida by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Ana Juan

    Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist who painted many portraits and works inspired by the nature and artifacts of Mexico.  She was left disabled by polio as a child and was seriously injured in a traffic accident as a teen. This book follows her life as she overcame difficult obstacles. We learn that though it all, her imagination and her artistic talent kept her hopes and dreams alive.   

    10.  Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx/La juez que crecío en el Bronx by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Edel Rodriguez

    This book follows the life of Sotomayor, the first Latina to serve on the United States Supreme Court. The text is in English and Spanish and provides a great opportunity for children to hear the true life story of a little girl from the Bronx who worked hard and grew up to fulfill her dream! Very inspirational!

     

     

    I am blessed to be a part of a heritage that is rich in traditions and culture. It continues to live on in my heart. Through the art of storytelling and works such as the ones listed above, my hope is that the traditions will continue to be passed down from generation to generation, especially through my own children and grandchildren. But all the thanks goes to those who came before who have passed those traditions down to us — those like my grandma. Happy Birthday Grandma Lucy!

    Hope this post starts a spark in learning about new traditions and culture or even in rediscovering your own heritage!

    Hugs,

    Sandy

     

    "A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people."

    — Mahatma Gandhi

    Last month I had the honor and privilege of celebrating my Grandma Lucy's 99th birthday! As I sat visiting with her, I began to reminisce about special childhood memories and the countless times I spent playing on the front porch with my siblings and cousins. I found myself humming as a sea of songs and rhymes filled my mind. I was transported to a time when family gatherings were frequent, the sounds of laughter echoed throughout the neighborhood, and the savory smells of traditional Mexican cooking drifted from the kitchen.

    Living on the border of Mexico and the United States, and specifically in El Paso, Texas, many of us share similar treasured memories. However, while our remembrances might be very alike, there is still diversity in each story that is told and in every tradition that is practiced. Every generation passes down its traditions, changing details ever so slightly. 

    As educators, we try to expose our students to different cultures and traditions throughout the year. Because of my Hispanic background, I wanted to share resources that explore that rich heritage. From a wealth of books available, I chose ones that were diverse and authentic in language, illustrations, and story lines.

    These titles are not only in English and Spanish, but can all be found on the Teacher Store. Additionally, during the month of May you can take up to 30 percent off of the list price! And while the end of the school year is quickly approaching, now is the perfect time to plan ahead for next year and make sure your classroom library is well stocked with diverse and authentic books.

    Here is my recommended list:

    1.  Tortillitas para mamá and Other Nursery Rhymes (Bilingual Edition in Spanish and English) by Betsy L. Bucks, illustrated by Barbara Cooney

    Once I read the title I immediately started reciting the beloved poem that my grandmother used to sing to me as a child and that I, in turn sang to my own children. This book is a collection of Latin American nursery rhymes, which have been passed on from generation to generation. Many of the rhymes are accompanied with instructions for finger plays. Cooney's beautiful and authentic illustrations add to the charm of this warm collection of Hispanic nursery rhymes and lullabies.    

    2.  Too Many Tamales / ¡Qué montón de tamales! by Gary Soto and Ed Martinez

    For many Mexican-American families, making tamales is a Christmas tradition. In Texas, it wouldn't be Christmas without tamales! A tamale-making party or tamalada is the ritual of family members gathering in the kitchen, each partaking in an assigned role to make this delicious holiday meal. This beloved story takes place on Christmas Eve. While Maria and her cousins are helping in the kitchen, Maria decides to try on her mother's ring. (I can relate to spending hours admiring my own mother's diamond wedding ring sparkling in the light!) Hours later she realizes that it is missing! Could it be in one of the tamales?!  

               

    3.  A Birthday Basket For Tia by Pat Mora, illustrated by Cecily Lang

    I could not create this list without including author Mora, a native of El Paso. Mora is a Mexican-American poet and author of many children's books. Her work is shaped by her life experiences of living on the Mexico-United States border. A Birthday Basket for Tia follows Cecilia and her pet cat, Chica, as they put together a heartfelt gift to celebrate Cecilia's great-aunt's 90th birthday! Cecilia teaches us that the best gifts are not always store bought!

     

    4.  Book Fiesta! by Pat Mora

    "Hooray! Today is our day, ¡El día de los niños!" In Mexico, Children's Day is celebrated on April 30. In 1997, Mora expanded the cause for celebration to include childhood literacy. Hence, El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Day of the Child/Day of the Book) was established. Book Fiesta! sends the message that reading is fun all day, every day!

    Please note that the author will donate a portion of the proceeds from this book to literacy initiatives related to Children's Day/Book Day!

     

    5.  The Day of the Dead/ El Día de los Muertos: A Bilingual Celebration by Bob Barner, Teresa Mlawer (translator)

    The Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout the country and by people of Mexican descent living in other places, especially the United States. The celebration is a time to honor the dead. It begins on October 31 and ends on November 2. The Spanish tradition might include festivals and parades, as well as gatherings of families at cemeteries to pray for the souls of the departed. Special altars are displayed containing photos, memorabilia, and the favorite foods and beverages of departed loved ones.

    This book follows two children as they celebrate their ancestors on this special holiday. They offer sugar skulls, special bread and marigolds. Then, by spreading marigold petals, they help guide the dead home to join the celebration. This will be a welcomed addition to your library! With the success and popularity of the movie Coco, more and more children will share in the understanding of this Mexican tradition.

    6.  Mice and Beans/Arroz con frijoles by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Joe Cepeda

    This book includes all types of fun all rolled up into one! Children love hearing stories about planning birthday parties and coming together with family and friends. But what makes this story even more compelling are the loveable little mice who are planning their own party! This story keeps children engaged until the very end and concludes with a special message: "When there is room in the heart, there's room in the house, EVEN for a mouse." 

     

    7.  La piñata/The Piñata by Rita Rosa Ruesga, illustrated by Soledad Sebastián

    This collaboration between Scholastic and Latin Grammy nominee Ruesga includes traditional Hispanic songs for all ages. Each song is accompanied with a brief description of its origin. In addition to the beautiful illustrations, the book also  includes links that can be downloaded, guitar chords, and music notations! What a treat! Highly recommended!

    8.  Colores de la vida by Cynthia Weill and ABeCedarios (in Spanish and English) by Cynthia Weill, illustrated by Moises and Armando Jimenez

    Young children love animals, bright colors and words! Colores de la vida combines all of these elements to create a joyful book for children. The pages are filled with Mexican folk art and is in English and Spanish. I also included ABeCedarios which is a beautiful book that includes wonderful illustrations of hand-carved animals for each letter of the alphabet, including letters unique to Spanish. Both of these books are part of the Oaxacan Folk Arts series.

    My last two choices focus on famous Latina women who have contributed to the Mexican culture and history. It is important that our children learn these names from a very young age and that we celebrate their contributions!

    9.  Frida by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Ana Juan

    Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist who painted many portraits and works inspired by the nature and artifacts of Mexico.  She was left disabled by polio as a child and was seriously injured in a traffic accident as a teen. This book follows her life as she overcame difficult obstacles. We learn that though it all, her imagination and her artistic talent kept her hopes and dreams alive.   

    10.  Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx/La juez que crecío en el Bronx by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Edel Rodriguez

    This book follows the life of Sotomayor, the first Latina to serve on the United States Supreme Court. The text is in English and Spanish and provides a great opportunity for children to hear the true life story of a little girl from the Bronx who worked hard and grew up to fulfill her dream! Very inspirational!

     

     

    I am blessed to be a part of a heritage that is rich in traditions and culture. It continues to live on in my heart. Through the art of storytelling and works such as the ones listed above, my hope is that the traditions will continue to be passed down from generation to generation, especially through my own children and grandchildren. But all the thanks goes to those who came before who have passed those traditions down to us — those like my grandma. Happy Birthday Grandma Lucy!

    Hope this post starts a spark in learning about new traditions and culture or even in rediscovering your own heritage!

    Hugs,

    Sandy

     

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