Books that introduce your children to Latino culture and traditions

Before moving to the U.S, I never ate a pupusa or heard about the Day of the Dead celebrations with calaveras and papel picado. Learning about the diversity of other Latino cultures and traditions have been fun and exciting.  However, I have also enjoyed finding the similarities of our culture between Latino people from different nationalities. The following list of children’s books highlight them very well.

collage

“René has two last names/ René tiene dos apellidos”

rene-has-two-names

Hispanic people generally use two surnames: the paternal surname and the maternal surname, this is one of the misunderstood characteristics of the culture and this book has been a great resource to teach why  this is so important for us.

“On the first day at my new school, my teacher, Miss Soria, gave me a sticker that said Rene Colato. The sticker was missing my second last name. Maybe Miss Soria’s pen ran out of ink. I took my pencil and added it. Now it looked right: Rene Colato Lainez.”

Young Rene is from El Salvador, and he doesn’t understand why his name has to be different in the United States. When he writes Colato, he sees his paternal grandparents, Rene and Amelia. When he writes Lainez, he sees his maternal grandparents, Angela and Julio. Without his second “like a hamburger without the meat or a pizza without cheese or a hot dog without a wiener.”

“¡Qué cosas dice mi abuela!”

quecosasdicemiabuela

Oh the abuelitas!  They are very important in the Hispanic family structure and have a strong influence. I love how this adorable book portrays the love, wisdom and care that our abuelitas are famous for. The sayings will make you smile and take you back to your fondest memories with your grandmas.

Using traditional Spanish-language sayings, a grandmother teaches manners to his grandchildren and their friends.

A boy narrates the events of a regular day, relating along the way his grandmother’s advice on manners, which come in the form of traditional Spanish-language sayings.

“Marisol McDonald doesn’t match/ Marisol McDonald no combina”

marisol mc donald

What an inspiring and encouraging book celebrating a child’s uniqueness! Marisol McDonald spoke to my children’s hearts in so many ways. This is definitely a must-have book in every family’s library.

Marisol McDonald has flaming red hair and nut-brown skin. Polka dots and stripes are her favorite combination. She prefers peanut butter and jelly burritos in her lunch box. To Marisol, these seemingly mismatched things make perfect sense together. Other people wrinkle their nose in confusion at Marisol―can’t she just choose one or the other? Try as she might, in a world where everyone tries to put this biracial, Peruvian-Scottish-American girl into a box, Marisol McDonald doesn’t match. And that’s just fine with her.

Arroz con Leche. Popular Songs and Rhymes from Latin America

arrozconleche

This is a book that brings joy and nostalgia to the Latino reader. Their catchy songs will take them back to their childhood and will make them sing again. It has been a great resource to teach my kids about the songs and rhymes that I grew up with and continue the tradition.

A collection of traditional Latin American songs and rhymes, in Spanish and English, with the music included

MY VERY OWN ROOM

myveryownroom

Latinos value the interaction with their extended families. This book helps the reader to understand why family is everything for our culture and how poverty and immigration impact us.  The illustrations are bright, colorful and breathtaking.

Five little brothers, two parents, and a house full of visiting relatives make a young Mexican American girl feel crowded. She loves her family, but how can she get a little space of her own? This delightful memoir of a California childhood, by Amada Irma Pérez, sparkles with exuberance and wit. Renowned painter Maya Christina Gonzalez brings the captivating scenes to life with bold colors and whimsical details. My Very Own Room gently teaches a valuable lesson about the strength of family and the importance of dreams.

A CHAIR FOR MY MOTHER

achairformymom

This beautifully illustrated picture book has a profound message about love, helping each other and how hard times can be work through. I appreciate how the mother is portrayed as a hard working woman and how the child help at her work.

After their home is destroyed by a fire, Rosa, her mother, and grandmother save their coins to buy a really comfortable chair for all to enjoy. A Chair for My Mother has sold more than a million copies and is an ideal choice for reading and sharing at home and in the classroom. “A superbly conceived picture book expressing the joyful spirit of a loving family.”—The Horn Book

“Grandma and me at the flea/ Los meros meros remateros”

grandma-and-meat the flea

This book has been a great resource when I want to explain the role of children in the family’s business and the importance of strong communities in the Latino culture.

Every Sunday Juanito helps his grandmother sell old clothes beneth the rainbow-colored tents at the remate, the flea market. There, Juanito and his friends romp from booth to booth, fulfilling Grandma’s vision of the remate as a sharing community of friendly give-and-take.Juanito gallops to the jewelry-man, who gives Juanito a copper bracelet and a watch for Grandma in exchange for her help sending money orders home to Mexico. Señora Vela gratefully accepts a bundle of Grandma’s healing herbs in return for sacks of ruby red chiles. With every exchange Juanito learns firsthand what it means to be a true rematero – a fleamarketeer – and understands that the value of community can never be measured in dollars.

“Soccer Star”

soccer

This book is a great resource to explain the non-Latino readers how soccer can be a passion in our culture and seen as an opportunity to overcome poverty. The story touches many social problems in Latin America like poverty, gender equality and children having to miss school for work.

When Paulo Marcelo Feliciano becomes a soccer star, crowds will cheer his famous name! Then his mother won’t have to work long hours, and he won’t have to work all day on a fishing boat. For now, Paulo takes care of his little sister Maria (she teaches him reading, he teaches her soccer moves) and walks her to school, stopping to give his teammates cheese buns as they set out to shine people’s shoes or perform for the tourist crowd. At day’s end, it’s time to plan the game, where Givo will bounce, Carlos will kick, and Jose will fly! But when Jose falls on his wrist, will the team finally break the rules and let a girl show her stuff? Set in a country whose resilient soccer stars are often shaped by poverty, this uplifting tale of transcending the expected scores a big win for all.

A bailar! Let’s dance!

dance

Dance is important in the Latino culture strengthening families and communities and the story captures it so well. This is one of those books that bring nostalgia and great memories to the Latino reader. 🙂

A bailar! There’s music in the park today–let’s dance!” Marita and her mother are finishing their Saturday chores and anticipating Papi’s salsa concert in the park that night, so Mami makes the broom her dance partner to show her daughter how to dance to the music. “Listen to the claves, the bongos, and the cowbells. Listen to the maracas, the timbales, and the giro, they will tell you how to move your shoulders, your hips, your feet.” They dance faster and faster, so fast that they fall down on the floor laughing.

That afternoon, they put on their best dresses and dancing shoes, and old Don Jose says they look like “dos lindas flores.” He follows them slowly, “his cane tapping out a salsa beat on the sidewalk.” The music floats in and out of the barrio’s alleys, calling listeners to move, move, move. Soon Marita and her mother are leading a parade of neighbors and friends dancing and singing their way to the concert. And at the park, Papi plays notes on his trombone that are a secret between him and Marita: te veo, te ve-o, te ve-o. I see you, I see you, I see you!

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