5 Children’s Books to Read During Hispanic Heritage Month
Every Hispanic Heritage Month, we are reminded to honor the positive traditions that shaped us. We seek to get in touch with our roots and learn something that we might not have known about our pasts. We cook favorite dishes, are treated to some wonderful programs, and get to celebrate with others. But more than anything, this month that honors our heritage also challenges us to look forward. What will hispanidad look like for our children? What will their traditions be? What issues will be central to their lives?
This month, then, gives us an opportunity to talk about those issues – be it equality, prejudice, or the language barrier – that are a not always easy to discuss. That’s what these Latino Children’s Books do so well.
Home at Last
By Susan Middleton Elya
Illustrated by Felipe Davalos
A young family must get used to a new life in an American city, even though Mama doesn’t speak English. It’s hard and Ana and her mom always think of their old life back home. While Ana does well translating for her mom, one day mama needs help and no one can understand her. This book does a wonderful job of communicating the worry and difficulties new immigrant families have when they settle into a new country, without overwhelming young readers. It also shows why knowledge of English is so important and how it can help new families feel more at home in their new place.
Perfect Season for Dreaming /Un tiempo perfecto para sonar
By Benjamin Alire Saenz
Illustrated by Esau Andrade Valencia
One beautiful summer day, a 6-year-old girl decides to sit with her 78-year-old grandfather and listen to his stories. Octavio Rivera has been having more and more vivid dreams lately. But, he doesn’t tell anyone else but his little granddaughter because he’s afraid others will think he’s crazy. As he tells his stories, his imaginings fill the skies. This bilingual book recalls the importance of the grandchild-grandparent relationship, deals with aging, and gently reminds readers that the older generation still dreams and still has hopes. It’s a touching book with beautiful illustrations that should be a part of everyone’s collection.
Playing El Juego de la Lotería
By Rene Colato Lainez
Illustrated by Jill Arena
When different generations speak different languages, coming together can be difficult. Many grandchildren feel disconnected from their Spanish-speaking grandparents, who wish they could be closer. That can be heartbreaking for parents stuck in the middle. But in this book, a young boy and his grandmother learn to bridge the gap in their relationship by playing lotería. Not only does the little boy overcome his embarrassment of not knowing Spanish, he learns the language and forms a bond with his abuelita that he never thought he could have.
¡Si, Se Puede! Yes, We Can! Janitor Strike in L.A.
By Diana Cohn
Illustrated by Francisco Delgado
Another book focusing on social justice, ¡Sí, Se Puede!, focuses on the Los Angeles janitors’ strike that took place in 2000. Young Carlitos’ mother is a janitor and takes part in the strike, and explains to him why the issues they are fighting for are so important. Carlitos is inspired by the mission and a desire to support his mom, so he comes up with a plan to help her the best way he can. Not only does this book do an excellent job of explaining what a strike is, but also shows all children the value of workers and why no one should be taken for granted.
This award-winning book tells the true story of Sylvia Mendez, the young girl who would eventually bring down California’s school segregation policies. As a parent, it can be challenging to discuss why children just like our own were deemed unsuitable to go to certain schools. It’s equally as hard for our kids to accept that such an injustice ever occurred, so age-appropriate books can be a gentle way to open up the conversation. The author ventures through the issue and the famous lawsuit that brought down segregation in a way children can understand. While not solely a moralistic story, children will come away inspired to think critically about justice and equality.
Watch the author discuss his thoughts on his book.