Due to a great suggestion that I add more information for each book on my list (in order to make it more useful for teachers) I’ve added the appropriate age level as suggested by the publisher, and linked each book to its Amazon page (I’m sure there are local and/or indie book stores that carry these books, but the easiest way to link you to more information is to give you the Amazon page). I’ve also added each of the books below to our Shelfari Bookcase, so you can check them out there too!
“Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but, most important, it finds home for us everywhere.”
Hazel Rochman ~ quoted by Anna Quindlen in How Reading Changed My Life
In a previous En la Clase post I shared my resolution to read more books by and about Latinos in light of the increased public discussion around diversity in children’s and young adult literature. (We’ve discussed it a number of times here on Vamos a Leer, but if you’re new to this topic, check out the original NYT times article here).
While I was in the process of doing research for this list, I came across two things that have made me think a great deal about why getting these titles into the hands of students and teachers is so important. First, I found the book How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen. Then, I came across an excellent post How Are Schools Instilling the Love of Reading in Students? by Hilde Garcia at The Pen and Ink Blog.
In education we talk a great deal about the importance of reading. Many of our conversations focus on how poorly the majority of our students read, and why our schools are aren’t doing a better job with reading instruction. I could go on and on about this, but because I fear I might never get down from my soapbox, I’ll try to focus on how I think Quindlen’s book is connected to this conversation. In one essay she writes the following:
“While we pay lip service to the virtues of reading, the truth is that there is still in our culture something that suspects those who read too much, whatever reading to much means, of being lazy, aimless dreamers, people who need to grow up and come outside to where real life is, who think themselves superior in their separateness. There is something in the American character that is even secretly hostile to the act of aimless reading, a certain hale and heartiness that is suspicious of reading as anything more than a tool for advancement” (p.9)
I’m afraid that Quindlen is right. In too many of our classrooms, reading has no other purpose than a skill a student needs to master in order to pass a standardized test. Read Garcia’s article (linked above) for a longer discussion on what we’re actually teaching about reading in the classroom. The joy, the creativity, the imagination, the personal connections are too often taken away from the reading that goes on in our classrooms.
Consider another quote from Quindlen: “In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own. I learned who I was and who I wanted to be, what I might aspire to, and what I might dare to dream about my world and myself. . . .I felt that I, too, existed much of the time in a different dimension from everyone else I knew. There was waking, and there was sleeping. And then there were books, a kind of parallel universe in which anything might happen and frequently did, a universe in which I might be a newcomer but was never really a stranger. My real, true world. My perfect island” (p. 6)
Books are powerful. I believe they can do everything that Quindlen writes above. They certainly have for me. If a good book can do all of this, shouldn’t it make sense that we provide books that our students can see themselves in? Books where they can identify with the characters or the events? Books that speak to their realities? Because I believe the answer to all of those questions is yes, I’ve made the list below. The NYT drew attention to the idea that “For Latino Readers An Image Is Missing”, but that doesn’t have to be the case. There are so many great books written by and about Latinos available. It’s just a matter of finding out about them and getting them into the hands of our teachers and our students.
My list is just a starting point. I’m sure I’ll come across books to add throughout the year–even now, every time I think I’ve got all the titles I want, I find something new! Feel free to share any titles you’d recommend in the comments. I’m also hoping to be able to offer some kind of review of or reflection on each of the books I read from the list below. I know when I was teaching, it was hard to choose books without some kind of review or thoughts about using them in the classroom. Some of the books below are part of our Vamos a Leer book group, so I already write a review and Educator’s Guide for those titles. For the others, it will largely depend on the time I have available, as our semester is already getting quite full!
- 90 Miles to Havana by Enrique Flores-Galbis | ages 9 and up
- An Island Like You: Stories of the Barrio by Judith Ortiz Cofer | ages 8 and up
- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz | ages 12 and up (Book Review and link to Educator’s Guide)
- Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Sáenz | ages 16 and up
- Breaking Through by Francisco Jiménez | ages 12 and up
- Reaching Out by Francisco Jiménez | ages 12 and up
- Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat | ages late high school, adult
- Colibrí by Ann Cameron | ages 12 and up | available in Spanish (Book Review and link to Educator’s Guide)
- Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa | ages 12 and up
- Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White by Lila Quintero Weaver (Review and Reflection)
- Dreams of Significant Girls by Cristina Garcia | ages 14 and up
- Firefly Letters by Margarita Engle | ages 10 and up
- The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle | ages 12 and up (Book Review and link to Educator’s Guide)
- The Wild Book by Margarita Engle | ages 10 and up
- Gringolandia by Lynn Miller-Lachmann | ages 14 and up (Book Review and link to Educator’s Guide)
- I Wanna Be Your Shoebox by Cristina Garcia | ages 8 and up
- Journey of Dreams by Marge Pellegrino | ages 11 and up (Book Review and link to Educator’s Guide)
- Leaving Glorytown: One Boy’s Struggle Under Castro by Eduardo F. Calcines | ages 12 and up (Book Review and link to Educator’s Guide)
- Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork | ages 12 and up (Book Review and link to Educator’s Guide)
- Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Peña | ages 14 and up
- We Were Here by Matt de la Peña | ages 14 and up
- I Will Save You by Matt de la Peña | ages 14 and up
- Milagros by Meg Medina | ages 10 and up
- The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind by Meg Medina | ages 14 and up (Book Review and link to Educator’s Guide)
- My Diary From Here to There/Mi Diario de Aqui Hasta Alla by Amada Irma Perez | ages 6 and up
- Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida by Victor Martínez | ages 13 and up
- Riding Low on the Streets of Gold: Latino Literature for Young Adults edited by Judith Ortiz Cofer | ages 12 and up
- Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Book Review and link to Educator’s Guide)
- Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall | ages 12 and up (Book Review and link to Educator’s Guide)
- The Color of My Words by Joseph Lynn | ages 8 and up | available in Spanish
- The Indigo Notebook by Laura Resau | ages 11 and up
- The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano | ages 12 and up (Book Review and link to Educator’s Guide)
- The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales | ages 12 and up
- Wachale! Poetry and Prose About Growing Up Latino in America edited by Ilan Stavans | ages 9 and up
- In Darkness by Nick Lake | ages 14 and up (Book Review and link to Educator’s Guide)
- Love, Amalia by Alma Flor Ada & Gabriel M. Zubizarreta | ages 8 and up | available in Spanish
- What the Moon Saw by Laura Resau | ages 8 and up (Book Review and link to Educator’s Guide)