2017 Américas Award Recipients

Buenos días a todas y todos! During the rest of this month I will be highlighting some amazing Latinx children’s and young adult literature authors and illustrators by introducing the 2017 award winners of the Américas Award, Pura Belpré and Tomás Rivera, which were awarded this past summer.

Today I will be introducing the Winners, Honorable Mention and Commended titles authors and illustrators for the 2017 Américas Award. As noted on their website, the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP) founded this award in 1993 to encourage and commend authors, illustrators and publishers who produce quality children’s and young adult books that portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States, and to provide teachers with recommendations for classroom use. CLASP offers up to two annual book awards, together with a commended list of titles.

I also want to note that the Latin American & Iberian Institute at the University of New Mexico, which works behind the scenes of this blog, is a proud sponsor of the Américas Award. The Américas Award is administered by CLASP, coordinated by Tulane University and Vanderbilt University, and supported by Florida International University, University of Florida, University of New Mexico, Stanford University and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The Américas Award also shares resources relevant to current events, new books and the classroom on their Facebook page, which is worth checking out. Without further ado, the following titles were recognized as Winners, Honorable Mentions and Commended Titles by the 2017 Américas Award review committee. We hope they will make it to your classroom bookshelves!


Award Winners

Ada’s Violin written by Susan Hood and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016. ISBN: 978-1481-430-951

The Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay has received international attention because of the extraordinary story of the children living in Cateura, home of the main garbage dump for the capital city of Asunciόn and how they became musicians using instruments made of recycled trash. Many of the townspeople work in the landfill earning as little as two dollars a day. Before the arrival of a consultant engineer to the landfill (Favio Chavez, who happened to be a musician), many of the children had no creative outlets and their futures seemed bleak. Ada’s Violin conveys the beautiful story of a young girl, Ada Rios, whose grandmother signs her up to learn how to play the violin through lessons given by Chavez. When there are more children interested in learning about music than there are instruments, Chavez turns to a local carpenter who begins to make instruments from recycled trash. At last, there are enough instruments for the children. Through diligent practice they develop the expertise to perform concerts for the local community. Their orchestra becomes so good, in fact, that they begin to perform in countries around the world. Coupled with magnificent illustrations, the author provides readers a background on the story, and website and videos links that teachers can use for extension activities, including a web address for how readers can help the orchestra. (Grades K-3) Continue reading

DACA Resources for Teachers

¡Buenos días!

In light of the devastating news of Deferred Action Childhood Arrival (DACA) being revoked, we would like to share some resources for teaching about DACA in the classroom.  Here at the Latin American & Iberian Institute of The University of New Mexico, we are all seeking ways to address this policy announcement and emphasize that we support our undocumented students.

At Vamos a Leer, we also acknowledge that this affects students and classrooms all over the United States. It is more important than ever for teachers to be allies for their immigrant student.

For those seeking more generalized resources on teaching about immigration, we invite you to look at our past posts on immigration. The Reading Roundup about Immigration may be particularly helpful when working with younger students.  .

We hope you find these resources useful!

En solidaridad,


Videos & Films

We would like to highlight the following interview with immigrant rights activist Jonatan Martinez, conducted here at The University of New Mexico. Jonatan participated in a walk to D.C., which resulted in the documentary American DREAMers, which we recommend checking out.

At UNM, our undocumented students have mobilized into an incredible, youth-led organization called the New Mexico Dream Team. As part of their efforts to create a safe, more inclusive campus and community for undocumented students and their families, they offer campus trainings. These are the “Dreamzone trainings,” and even if you can’t attend in person, their introductory video  offers some important starting points about why and how educators should become active allies and how they can serve as resources for undocumented students.

We also invite you to check out two films recently released which talk about DACA from personal standpoints. We have only watched the trailers, so if you watch them, please let us know what you think! The directors are offering free streams of these films for the month of September in solidarity with DREAMers around the country.


Teachers might find the succinct article, posted by United We Dream, useful for addressing prevalent questions regarding what this all means for current DACA holders.

Grace Cornell Gonzales with Rethinking Schools wrote a post titled “800,000 Reasons to Teach About DACA.” In her article, she highlights the importance of understanding and teaching what it means to be undocumented, and the fears with which undocumented youth are faced. In order to do so, Gonzales links Sandra Osorio’s article about teaching about deportation. She links a few videos explaining DACA, some of which are for more of a high school audience. Gonzales closes with ways that students and teachers can take action to support undocumented immigrants in the US.

The Southern Poverty Law Center also published an article regarding DACA, which we recommend checking out.

Sana Makke with Teaching For Change also wrote an article this week about high school students in Washington D.C. walking out to protest DACA.

What can you do?

Here is an article with ideas for what we can do in order to support DACA. Organizations like Cosecha and United We Dream are good places to start when looking for how to offer support.

Welcome (back) to our team!

¡Hola a todas y todos!

Introducing the Vamos a Leer team members for the 2017-2018 school year! If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you might recognize some of us, as we are all blog returnees. We are excited to continue sharing knowledge with and learning from all of you.

Hasta pronto,


Katrina Dillon, Blogger-in-Chief

I am ​an education consultant ​with k-12 outreach at the Latin American and Iberian Institute at the University of New Mexico. I recently finished my PhD in Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies and am now back in the elementary school classroom.  I also have experience teaching at the preschool, middle school, and university levels.

Keira Philipp-Schnurer, Blog Manager

I oversee the community education (outreach) programs at the Latin American and Iberian Institute at the University of New Mexico, which means I work with fantastic community and campus partners to plan cultural events, academic symposia, and teacher workshops, among other activities. Most days are a whirlwind and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Kalyn Finnell, Blogger

I am a dual degree Master’s student at the University of New Mexico, studying Latin American Studies and Community & Regional Planning. As part of my Master’s thesis I am currently working with a community in Cusco, Peru, where I have spent time living and studying the Quechua language. When I’m not blogging or studying, I’m working as the President of the Student Organization for Latin American Studies (SOLAS) at UNM. I am excited to be engaged in the k-12 community, and to help support the teaching of Latin America in the classroom.

Alin Yuriko Badillo Carrillo, Blogger

I am a second year Master’s Student in the Latin American Studies program at the University of New Mexico. I am the Vice President of the Student Organization for Latin American Studies (SOLAS) at UNM, amd I work with k-12 outreach programs at the UNM Latin American & Iberian Institute, where I get to contribute to bringing a different perception to this blog. I am a first in my family to graduate from high school, college, and now as a Master’s student. I am very excited to share my perspectives and I look forward to hear your thoughts.

Valeria García, Contributor

¡Hola y mucho gusto a todos! I am a fourth year Master’s student in Latin American Studies at the University of New Mexico, and I am a third year law student at UNM as well. I work mainly with translating K-12 curriculum materials for Vamos a Leer, as well as collaborating with other initiatives that the Latin American and Iberian Institute takes on with k-12 programs. My focuses for my Masters is on human rights discourse and domestic violence/child abuse in Latin America, and I hope to practice criminal defense for indigent communities in New Mexico. I’m very excited to contribute to this amazing blog!

Jacob Sandler, Contributor

I research Isthmus Zapotec poetry and other cultural products from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region in southern Mexico. Currently I am studying Anthropology and Economics through the Latin American & Iberian Institute at the University of New Mexico. I grew up in Trenton, NJ and Philly.


Writers’ Words: Edwidge Danticat

Claire of the Sealight Danticat

¡Buenos días!

I hope everyone is having a great Thursday! In celebration of this month’s featured book, Claire of the Sea Light, I’ve brought you a visual quote by Edwidge Danticat.

I hope you enjoy it!


Book Giveaway: Poesía eres tú and Todo es canción

book giveaway april¡Buenas!

In light of Poetry Month, we are giving away two poetry anthologies in the Spanish language. The two books are Poesía eres tú: Antología poética, written by F. Isabel Campoy and illustrated by Marcela Calderón, and Todo es canción: Antología poética, written by Alma Flor Ada and illustrated by María Jesús Álvarez.

These books would be great for Spanish language learners and ideal for the classroom. The poems draw from everyday happenings, illuminating the beauty and creativity that exists in our day to day activities. Through these poems, I think that children will be inspired to write poetry themselves. Both of the authors have divided their poems into categories, so you can easily find different poetry themes you are in the mood for. I encourage you to check out Alma Flor Ada’s webpage about this book, where you can find a book description, author’s note, book review, and a video of Alma Flor Ada reading the poem “Bilingüe” from her book. Isabel Campoy also has a description of her book on her website that I recommend taking a look at.

To be entered in the giveaway, comment on this post by April 30th. If your name is chosen, we will email you about mailing the book to you.

Good luck!

Reading Roundup: 10 Latino Children’s Books Celebrating the Natural World

Aprils 2016 Reading Roundup¡Buenos días!

In celebration of Earth Day, this month I have put together a list of books involving Latin America and the natural world. While creating this list, I was continually thinking about our everyday interactions with nature. This month is the perfect time for openly and beautifully reflecting on what it means to interact with the earth, and I hope that these books will provide a platform to do so. These books are a celebration of the natural world, including plants, animals, the sun and the sky. In addition, they draw connections to conservation, life cycles, food and medicines. I hope everyone finds them inspiring!


Parrots Over Puerto Rico
Written by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore
Collages by Susan L. Roth
Published by Lee & Low Books Inc.
ISBN: 9781620140048
Age Level: 6-11

Above the treetops of Puerto Rico flies a flock of parrots as green as their island home. . . . These are Puerto Rican parrots. They lived on this island for millions of years, and then they nearly vanished from the earth forever.

Puerto Rican parrots, once abundant, came perilously close to extinction in the 1960s due to centuries of foreign exploration and occupation, development, and habitat destruction. In this compelling book, Roth and Trumbore recount the efforts of the scientists of the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program to save the parrots and ensure their future. Woven into the parrots’ story is a brief history of Puerto Rico itself, from before the first human settlers to the present day.

With striking collage illustrations, a unique format, and engaging storytelling, Parrots Over Puerto Rico invites readers to witness the amazing recovery efforts that have enabled Puerto Rican parrots to fly over their island once again.

My thoughts:
I absolutely loved this book, and it is perfect for teaching Earth Day! Roth’s collages are incredibly captivating and I could not help but take time looking at their details. This book ties the history of the Puerto Rican parrots to the history of Puerto Rico itself, therefore teaching about the effect that actions in history have on the environment. Just like Puerto Rico’s history of colonialism and becoming a commonwealth state of the United States, the Puerto Rican parrots have had a difficult history, and they have survived and continue to persevere. This book also tells about the need for intervention in order to prevent the extinction of the parrots by depicting human efforts to save the parrots. It tells in detail the processes that scientists and conservationists have taken towards saving these birds, and at the end of the book there are photos of the efforts with nonfictional descriptions. In addition, Lee & Low Books has a guide for educators that I encourage you to check out! Continue reading

Writers’ Words: Margarita Engle

Engle Quote

¡Buenos días!

I hope everyone is enjoying Spring Break! This month’s visual quote comes from Margarita Engle’s novel, Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings. I hope you like it!