Hispanic heritage month books for kids are the topic of our blog post today!
October is in full swing, and we’re right in the middle of National Hispanic American Heritage Month, a vibrant celebration honoring the cultures, histories, and contributions of Hispanic and Latinx communities in America. In case you’re not up-to-date, I pulled some intriguing details about this month-long observance from the official website of the National Hispanic Heritage Month, a collaborative effort featuring key institutions like the Library of Congress and the National Gallery of Art.
The purpose of this post is to share with you this collection of Hispanic heritage month books for kids curated specifically to celebrate this heritage through the power of literature. These books both entertain as well as also educate about the richness and diversity of Hispanic culture. Bit before we delve into the book list, let’s first explore what Hispanic heritage month is all about.
What is Hispanic Heritage Month and why is it celebrated?
According to the authoritative source Hispanicheritagemonth.gov, National Hispanic American Heritage Month is observed annually from September 15 to October 15. This month-long celebration honors the histories, cultures, and invaluable contributions of American citizens whose roots can be traced back to Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, as well as Central and South America.
A Bit of Historical Context
Hispanic Heritage Month didn’t just pop up overnight. It actually began as a week-long observance in 1968 and was later extended to a 30-day period by none other than President Ronald Reagan in 1988. This change was officially enacted into law on August 17, 1988, through Public Law 100-402. These details are important, as they show the growth and increasing recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month over the years.
Why These Specific Dates?
Have you ever wondered why Hispanic Heritage Month starts mid-month? According to Hispanicheritagemonth.gov, September 15 is a significant day, marking the anniversary of independence for several Latin American countries including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Additionally, Mexico celebrates its independence on September 16, followed by Chile on September 18. The month even encompasses Columbus Day, which is also known as Día de la Raza, celebrated on October 12.
Hispanic Heritage Month Books for Kids
Here are our top picks for Hispanic heritage month books for kids:
1. Alma and How She Got Her Name, by Juana Martinez-Neal
This heartwarming tale dives deep into the richness of family and cultural heritage through the lens of a little girl named Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela. Burdened by a name almost too grand for her small frame, Alma turns to her father for an exploration into her namesake, discovering a legacy of dreamers, artists, and lovers of life in the process. Juana Martinez-Neal’s storytelling and illustrations unravel the beauty in one’s name, offering kids an enlightening perspective on their own identities.
2. Dreamers, by Yuyi Morales
“Dreamers” is a resonant, illustrated memoir that encapsulates the struggle and resilience of immigrant life. The story revolves around the journey of finding a home while keeping your history, hopes, and dreams intact. Yuyi Morales masterfully integrates symbolism in her lush illustrations, offering a lens to understand the gifts that ‘migrantes’ bring along with them. Whether you’re a new immigrant or someone just moving to a new place, this book speaks to the dreamer in all of us, making it both a timely and timeless read.
3. La Princesa and the Pea, by Susan Middleton Elya, Juana Martinez-Neal
Set against a backdrop inspired by Peruvian culture, “La Princesa and the Pea” is an enchanting Latino spin on a classic fairy tale. With a clever prince and a queen eager to test a prospective bride’s royalty, the book is a delightful concoction of whimsy and tradition. The illustrations are vivid, infused with cultural elements that transport readers to a land where true love is tested in the most unexpected of ways.
4. My Papi Has A Motorcycle, by Isabel Quintero
Isabel Quintero’s “My Papi Has A Motorcycle” is more than just a ride through the neighborhood; it’s a heartfelt tribute to hardworking parents and the communities they raise their children in. Through the eyes of young Daisy Ramona, we see a neighborhood in flux, but what remains constant is the love and security she feels with her Papi. It’s a captivating read that resonates with anyone who has witnessed the bittersweet changes that come with time, and it holds a mirror to the things that make a place ‘home.’
5. Carmela Full of Wishes, by Matt de la Peña, Christian Robinson
Celebrating the power of wishes and the resilience of immigrant families, “Carmela Full of Wishes” takes readers on a journey through a young girl’s life on her first day being ‘old enough’ to run errands with her brother. Carmela stumbles upon a dandelion and faces the responsibility of making a wish, a seemingly small act laden with the weight of her dreams and hopes. The lyrical text and evocative illustrations make this book a touching ode to family, hope, and the small joys that make life magical.
6. Separate Is Never Equal, by Duncan Tonatiuh
This book resonates talks about young Sylvia Mendez and her family who fought against school segregation in California in 1947, years before the pivotal Brown v. Board of Education ruling. I found it incredibly moving how the Mendez family took the initiative to challenge the system legally when Sylvia and her brothers were barred from attending a “whites-only” school. The author, Duncan Tonatiuh, adds a unique touch with his signature illustrations and extensive interviews with Sylvia. The Mendez family’s story adds a vital chapter to the fight for desegregation, one that’s often overshadowed but needs to be part of the educational discourse.
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7. Waiting for the Biblioburro, by Monica Brown and John Parra
Monica Brown and John Parra do a marvelous job here. Inspired by the real-life Luis Soriano’s mobile library in Colombia, the story centers around Ana, a little girl in a remote village with limited access to books. The arrival of the Biblioburro, a traveling library on donkeys, kindles her imagination and opens up a world of possibilities. This book just felt like a homage to the transformative power of books and literacy, especially in rural settings.
8. Areli Is a Dreamer, by Areli Morales and Luisa Uribe
“Areli Is a Dreamer” is more than just a book; it’s a lived experience for so many. It follows Areli Morales as she navigates the complexities of being an immigrant in the U.S. and becoming a DACA recipient. Her journey is an amalgamation of struggle, adaptation, and ultimately, a realization of her American dream. The DACA policy backdrop adds a socio-political layer to the personal narrative. The story makes it clear: America is a tapestry woven with the threads of immigrant experiences, and how policy can be life-altering.
9. Turning Pages: My Life Story, by Sonia Sotomayor and Lulu Delacre
This is the kind of autobiography that’s bound to inspire the next generation of leaders. Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, delves into her life journey through the lens of her love for books. The narrative elegantly touches upon her early life, the loss of her father, and her struggle with diabetes, and how books became her sanctuary through all of it. Reading this, I was reminded of the essential role educators play in cultivating a love for reading that can have lifelong implications.
10. Islandborn, by Junot Díaz and Leo Espinosa
Junot Díaz and Leo Espinosa team up to present this beautifully illustrated book about Lola, who can’t remember her island of origin but embarks on a quest to discover it through her community’s collective memories. The storytelling is as vivid as the illustrations, and it speaks volumes about the importance of cultural roots and collective memory. “Islandborn” also demonstrates that while technology and apps can provide data, the narratives of our elders provide emotional context that’s irreplaceable.
11. Sing with Me: The Story of Selena Quintanilla, by Diana López
This book is a delightful tribute to the legendary Selena Quintanilla, capturing her rise to stardom and influence on Latin music and culture. I particularly loved how the book delves into Selena’s struggles and triumphs, making it not just a tale of stardom but a life lesson on dedication and self-belief. It’s a story that empowers young readers to embrace their heritage and their dreams.
12. Where Are You From?, by Yamile Saied Méndez
This book resonates with me because it tackles the complexities of identity and belonging, something many kids grapple with. It’s a story of a young girl often asked where she is “really” from, and how her grandfather helps her understand that her identity is much more nuanced and rich than a simple answer can capture. It’s a crucial book for initiating discussions on self-acceptance and cultural understanding.
13. The Piñata That the Farm Maiden Hung, by Samantha R. Vamos
I always think interactive books make the best classroom resources, and this one takes the cake. This book is about a farm maiden who prepares a piñata with the help of her animal friends. It integrates English and Spanish vocabulary into a fun, rhythmic story. It’s a great way to introduce language learning while also celebrating cultural traditions. I’ve even paired this with a piñata-making activity once, and the kids loved it!
14. I Love Saturdays y domingos, by Alma Flor Ada
This book just hits the right chord when it comes to blended families and multicultural heritage. It’s the story of a young girl who spends weekends with both sets of grandparents, one European-American and the other Mexican-American. It beautifully represents how one can be part of multiple worlds and still be one self. It’s a terrific book for children coming from diverse family backgrounds.
15. My Two Border Towns, by David Bowles
This one is very timely and important, depicting life at the U.S.-Mexico border through the eyes of a young boy. This book not only provides perspective on what life is like in these border towns but also delves into themes of community, empathy, and activism. It’s a conversation starter for discussing complex issues like immigration with children. I’ve used it to spark debates and storytelling exercises, and it always gets the kids thinking deeply.
Books are not just ink on paper; they’re windows into lives, histories, and diverse perspectives. If you’ve picked up even one of these books, you’ve opened the door to understanding a culture that is an integral part of the American fabric. My personal opinion? The beauty of these Hispanic heritage month books for kids lies in their universality. They teach empathy, broaden our worldviews, and showcase the intricacies of Hispanic heritage.
So as October comes to a close, let’s not limit this exploration to just one month. The resources are out there, the books are available, and the thirst for knowledge should never be quenched. Whether you’re an educator, a parent, or simply a book enthusiast like myself, let’s continue to use literature as a vibrant tool for inclusive education all year long.