Literacy Ideas For Learning About Hispanic Heritage Month

Growing Readers: Learning to Love Reading and Writing Column 26

This editorial article was written by Lizzie Mussoline, M. Ed.
Literacy Ideas For Learning About Hispanic Heritage Month
The Children’s Book Review

National Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration of the cultures of Latinos and Hispanic Americans in the United States. It runs from September 15th until October 15th, which is not nearly enough time to learn about the 21 Spanish-speaking countries that make up Latin America.

It can be hard to know where to begin when teaching others and learning about Hispanic Heritage Month. Here are some ideas:

  • When I feel overwhelmed, I always start with books. Books are the best bridge to so many fascinating teaching points, such as interesting characters, histories, themes, and more. Start your journey with one of the incredible books listed below, and see where it might take you, your family, or your students.
  • To broaden your knowledge and immersion in Hispanic heritage, consider incorporating Latin music into your playlists.
  • You can also research and support local Hispanic businesses and restaurants and bring more thought-provoking discussions to family meals by using the following books as a guide.
  • Make sure you also research Hispanic Heritage celebrations and festivals that might take place in or near your hometown.
  • Support your favorite local bookstores by seeking their recommendations to learn more about the history, people, and beautiful cultures of Latin America. 

From picture books to chapter books that will appeal to various ages, here is a list of just a few of our favorites to help kick off and celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month! Try starting the celebration by purchasing them at a Latino-owned bookstore! Find a list of them here.  

Children’s Books with Latino Characters and Themes

Esperanza Rising: Book Cover

Esperanza Rising

Written by Pam Munoz Ryan

Ages 9+ | 272 Pages

Publisher: Scholastic Press | 9780439120418

This beautiful historical fiction book begins in El Rancho de las Rosas in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Esperanza is 12 years old and lives a charmed life with her family and several servants and workers. She is very close to her father, who feels a strong connection to the land and teaches Esperanza how to listen to the “heartbeat of the earth.” The day before Esperanza’s 13th birthday, she pricks her finger on a thorn—a sign of bad luck. Later that night, Esperanza and her family receive the terrible news that bandits have killed her father. So begins the tumultuous plot and the journey that takes her to a migrant camp working the land in California.

Esperanza Rising is an excellent book to read alongside any nonfiction works about Cesar Chavez, who was famous for his efforts to gain better working conditions for the thousands of farmworkers who labored for low wages and under severe conditions. Chavez and his United Farm Workers union battled California grape growers by holding many nonviolent protests.

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Book: Waiting for the Biblioburro

Written by Monica Brown

Illustrated by John Parra

Ages 5+ | 32 Pages

Publisher: Tricycle Press | ISBN-13: 9781582463537

Inspired by Colombian librarian Luis Soriano Bohórquez, this book tells the story of a little girl whose wish comes true when a librarian and two book-laden burros visit her remote village. It is a beautiful book about the power of reading and is a key starting point to discuss how where one lives impacts their access to books. 

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Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor tells her own story for young readers.  As the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor has inspired young people worldwide to reach for their dreams. But what inspired her? For young Sonia, the answer was books. 

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After Lucía hears girls can’t be superheroes, she learns of and embraces her family’s past as women wrestlers of the Lucha libre tradition known as Luchadoras. This book provides an interesting look into the Mexican tradition and culture of female wrestling.

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Queen of Tejano Music- Selena

Written by Silvia Lopez

Illustrated by Paola Escobar

Ages 6+ | 48 Pages

Publisher: little bee books | ISBN-13: 9781499811421

This gorgeously illustrated picture book details the incredible life of Selena, an extremely talented singer and performer who put Tejano music (a popular musical style fusing Mexican, European, and U.S. influences. Its evolution began in northern Mexico and Texas in the mid-19th century with the introduction of the accordion by German, Polish, and Czech immigrants)in a global spotlight. Enjoy this book and then enjoy some of her fun and beautiful music! 

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The First Rule of Punk

Written by Celia C. Pérez

Ages 10+ | 336 Pages

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers | ISBN-13: 9780425290408

Twelve-year-old Malú was pretty sure of her identity as a lover of punk rock and a maker of zines (any unique self-published work of minority interest). But then her mom whisks her off to Chicago and enrolls her in a new school, leaving her dad and his record store behind. The other Hispanic kids in Malú’s school question how Mexican she is, so she’s forced to balance being Mexican American with her punk side. Forming her punk band with three of the school’s “misfits” lets her rock on toward the realization that she doesn’t need to be any one thing—being herself is more than enough!

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Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Written and Illustrated by Yuyi Morales

Ages 2+ | 40 Pages

Publisher: Neal Porter Books | ISBN-13: 9780823440559

Children’s book author and illustrator Yuyi Morales shares her immigration story as she details her journey from Mexico to the United States with her 2-month-old son and their life in a new place.

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Separate Is Never Equal- Sylvia Mendez and Her Familys Fight for Desegregation

Written and Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh

Ages 6+ | 40 Pages

Publisher: Harry N. Abrams | ISBN-13: 9781419710544

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh is a history lesson about Sylvia Mendez, a girl of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who, along with her family, played a significant role in a landmark desegregation case years before Brown vs. Board of Education.

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Bodega Dreams: Book Cover

Written by Ernesto Quiñonez 

Ages 15+ | 213 Pages

Publisher: Vintage | ISBN-13: 9780375705892

This book is for older or more mature readers as it includes drugs and violence. The word is out in Spanish Harlem: Willy Bodega is king and can give anyone a helping hand, in exchange only for loyalty—and a steady income from the drugs he pushes. This darkly funny and gritty novel explores the American dream in Latino terms. Recommended for older readers.

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Thank you for reading the Growing Readers: Learning to Love Reading and Writing column. Bookmark this Growing Readers Column link or subscribe to our e-newsletter so you do not miss out on the monthly reading tips. Literacy Ideas For Learning About Hispanic Heritage Month was written by Lizzie Mussoline, M. Ed.—follow her on Instagram: @wildflower_learning_denver.

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September 21, 2021 at 07:11AM Bianca Schulze