I know that it’s still November, and I’m sure some of you are gearing up for lots of cooking and time with family later this week. While I always enjoyed the extra days off, inevitably part of my Thanksgiving weekend went to working on lesson plans that would get my class through December. In case some of you will be spending part of your weekend doing the same thing, I thought I’d share a post that originally went up last year. In it, we include lots of bilingual titles about various winter celebrations. I always tried to plan read-aloud, writing projects and crafts for December as much as possible around literature. If you’d like to do the same, I thought it would be helpful to have these titles sooner rather than later–I always found many of them at our local public library. This list may still be useful for those of you who aren’t teachers, but celebrate Christmas with children at home. Recently, I stumbled across the blog post “A Bookish Advent Calendar” which describes a different kind of advent activity. Children count down to Christmas by unwrapping a different book to read each night (don’t worry–you don’t have to purchase 24 books, a quick trip to the library should help you find everything you need). It might even be fun to adapt this activity for the classroom as a countdown to Winter Break, including books about winter and a variety of winter traditions and celebrations. I hope you find the resources below helpful. You may also want to check out Katie’s post on Multicultural Books for Christmas from Youth Literature Reviews. She includes a number of different titles from the ones we share below.
One of the questions we receive most often from the educators we work with and our blog readers is what recommendations we have for good bilingual classroom resources, mainly books. While doing research for some other posts, I came across a number of great bilingual resources perfect for teaching about winter celebrations. If you didn’t get a chance to read last week’s post on why I liked to teach about winter celebrations and how I implemented it, you may want to check that out here. Ailesha also put together two great posts full of resources for teaching about Las Posadas, a number of which are bilingual. Read about online resources here and books here.
Many of you are probably familiar with Alma Flor Ida. She’s a favorite of ours here at Vamos a Leer. We even featured her in a ¡Mira, Look! post. Below I’ve shared her titles that are perfect for this time of year–she has books on Christmas, El Día de los Reyes Magos, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa!
A number of her books related to winter celebrations are part of a series of 24 books called Stories to Celebrate | Cuentos para Celebrar. According to the series description, each of these books is actually two books in one: “The first part is an engaging realistic fiction story beautifully illustrated by a diversity of illustrators. The second part is a non-fiction piece that explains the history and significance of the holiday or celebration. This second part is illustrated with bright and unique photographs that will allow children to witness the celebration.” She has written Celebrate Hannukah, Celebrate Kwanzaa, and Celebrate Christmas & Three Kings Day.
On her website she shares many of her own memories of Christmas celebrations–definitely worth checking out and sharing with your classes. My students always loved to read about an author’s personal memories or reflections, I think it made the writer seem more real to them.
- La jaula dorada from the series Stories the Year ‘Round or Cuentos para todo el año
- The bilingual book The Christmas Tree/El árbol de Navidad.
- The vignette “Christmas for All” in the book Under the Royal Palms or Bajo las palmas reales
- The theme of Christmas is also mentioned in the book I Don’t Want to Melt or No quiero derretirme from the series Stories the Year ‘Round or Cuentos para todo el año.
- Merry Navidad. Christmas Carols in Spanish and English
Ada isn’t the only author with great books for this season though–
Gary Soto’s Too Many Tamales is always a favorite of mine (and my students). It has the most beautiful illustrations! While I’m not sure I’d call it bilingual (it is written mostly in English) he does reference a number of Spanish words and the story definitely conveys different cultural celebrations for Christmas.
Antonio Sacre and Angela Dominguez wrote and illustrated La Noche Buena: A Christmas Story. In this book students learn about Cuban traditions for celebrating Christmas:
“Nina is visiting her grandmother in Miami for Christmas. Usually she spends it in snowy New England with her mother and her family, but this year is different. She isn’t certain what to make of a hot and humid holiday, until she learns the traditions of her father’s side of the family from her Cuban grandmother. She helps prepare for the evening and takes part in all their traditions—the intricate cooking for the feast, the dancing, the music, and the gathering of relatives and neighbors. It all comes together for a Noche Buena that Nina will never forget.”
Los Bizcochitos de Benito / Benito’s Bizcochitos is a bilingual fairy tale that tells the story of Benito, who runs away from home only to learn that the rest of the world isn’t nearly as friendly as his family’s farm. As they do their holiday baking, Grandmother tells Cristina the story of the little girl’s great-grandfather. When he was a boy, Benito ran away from his parents’ farm. A magical giant butterfly helped him realize how much he missed his home and gave him a piece of sweet bread, resulting in the family tradition of making butterfly-shaped cookies at Christmastime. A row of geometric designs separates the English text from the Spanish translation that lies below. The book is written and illustrated by Ana Baca and Anthony Accardo, and translated by Julia Mercedes Castillais.
I know we’ve mentioned Pat Mora’s A Piñata in a Pine Tree before, but I wanted to include it again here–it’s such a fun book! The book is described as “a festive Latino twist on “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” populating it with piñatas in place of partridges, plus burritos bailando (dancing donkeys), lunitas cantando (singing moons), and much more, all displayed in the most vivid colors imaginable. In this version a little girl receives gifts from a secret amiga, whose identity is a sweet surprise at the book’s conclusion. There are things to find and count in Spanish on every page, with pronunciations provided right in the pictures and a glossary and music following the story. This joyous fiesta will warm even the coldest of hearts.”
Leo Polti’s Pedro: The Angel of Olvera Street is a much older book than the others I’ve mentioned. It was originally published in 1948. The words and illustrations tell the story of the Las Posadas Christmas tradition of Los Angeles that continues today
The last title I have to share with you is Francisco Jimenez’s The Christmas Gift/El Regalo de Navidad. This book is one of the short stories that later became a chapter in Jiménez’s The Circuit (the featured novel for our November book group meeting). According to the book’s description, “With honesty and grace, award-winning author Francisco Jiménez shares his most poignant Christmas memory in this beautifully illustrated picture book. As Christmas approaches, Panchito can’t wait to see what present he gets. But on Christmas Day, he is disappointed when all he gets is a bag of candy, until he sees the gift his father gives his mother. Panchito then realizes that gifts of the heart are the most precious of all.” The book is beautifully illustrated and includes both the English and Spanish versions of the story.
I hope you find this useful! If I’ve missed any titles you think should be included, please share them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!
Happy Reading! Hopefully you have enough titles here to get you and your class through those wonderfully chaotic weeks before Winter Break! In the coming weeks, we’ll continue to share ideas and resources perfect for December.