Black History Month 2021

Feliz Black History Month!

February first is the start of Black History Month! To help your students learn about and celebrate Afro-Latinos and Black history and culture in Latin America, check out our materials from last year’s workshops centered around Afro-Latino traditions and significant figures from Latin America.

What does the phrase “representation matters” really mean?

Check out this STEM guide that explores the experiences of Dr. Guimarães from Brazil

Check out this film guide to learn more about the Buena Vista Social Club:

Grades 11-12 (in English) Lesson Plan

Want more materials? Check out our other lesson plans and guides from last year’s workshops here.

LAII Educator Newsletter: September 2020

We hope that the 2020-21 school year is off to a great start. In this newsletter, we share ideas and prepared lesson plans to help incorporate Hispanic and Latinx themes into your learners’ studies this month in addition to other helpful ideas for teaching during the pandemic. ¡Disfrútalo! 
In the month’s newsletter:· Hispanic Heritage Month Activities, Vamos a Leer Educator Guide: The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle (in English and Spanish), Tech Spotlight: Google Meet, Current Event Activities


We also invite you to join our newly created LAII Educator Community Google Classroom for educators and parents to share how these tips worked for you and any other ideas you’ve come up with!

¡Feliz mes de la historia de la mujer!

¡Feliz mes de la historia de la mujer!

Women’s History Month is here! Which inspiring women are you teaching your students about this month? Share their names in the comments below!

When it comes to women from Latin America and Latinas from the U.S., there is a long list of mujeres poderosas from which to choose. Here I will spotlight a few Latinas who have paved the way for future generations interested in STEM.

First, we have Mirna Roman; she the tica (costariqueña) who was the first Indigenous doctor in Costa Rica. This trailblazer is from the Ngäbe community and became inspired to practice medicine by watching her mom treat her siblings. We’ve created a STEM guide in Spanish that includes interviews of Roman and a reflective follow-up activity. Click here to access it!

Next up, we have Ellen Ochoa. Did you know that in addition to being the first Hispanic astronaut Ochoa has also made and patented 3 inventions? Our lesson plan on Ochoa is in English and perfect for grades 3-6; it includes two interviews of Ochoa in which she reflects upon her achievements and goals for future generations. Click here to check it out!

Last, but certainty not least, is Nicole Hernandez Hammer. Hernandez Hammer is a climate scientist, who spent her early childhood in rural Guatemala and is currently based in Florida where she works with communities who are most afflicted by climate change. Our STEM guide on Hernandez Hammer is in English and features an interview of this advocate in addition to a news article that addresses the impacts of climate change in Florida. Click here to learn more about this current issue!

Here’s to mujeres poderosas everywhere!
May we know them.
May we be them.
May we raise them.

Is there another Latina in STEM that you want to see featured in one of our STEM guides? Drop her name in a comment below!

Book Group Recap: Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

¡Feliz (casi) primavera, lectores y educadores!

This month, we discussed Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s Under the Mesquite (Grades 7-12; Lexile 990L) at our book group. This is a very heartwarming read about Lupita, a high schooler who experiences and overcomes challenges both at home with her family and at school with her peers. Lupita’s experiences and challenges are very relatable to readers of all ages. Click here to view our book guide. For extended notes on Under the Mesquite, check out our previous post about it by clicking here.

McCall begins Under the Mesquite with a definition of the mesquite tree that attests to its strength and resilience to endure harsh climates and its adaptability. It becomes clear from the beginning of the text that this resilient tree symbolizes this key theme that we see as Lupita is put in tough situations and valiantly overcomes these challenges.

Consider creating a memory box as a way to extend Under the Mesquite with your class! As Lupita grows and faces different difficulties in her life, she journals her memories of her mother, family, friends and cities in her blue book. Her interest in saving the memories of loved ones allows her to write stories that will revive the moments. It is from the desire of keeping the memories of her loved ones that the activity of memory box is thought. Students will put a drawing, an object, a photograph, a note and other things in a box that keeps the memories of their loved ones, places or moments of their lives. And finally, they will keep this box in their classroom as a door that will lead them to the memories.

Join us next month! On April 9th, we will meet at Ponderosa Brewing (1761 Bellamah Ave NW) to discuss Juana and Lucas by: Juana Medina. (Grades 2-4)

Why Cascarones?

As Ericka told us in the previous post, the importance and influence of the culture of two different countries in the development and growth of a border child make a great mark in their way of looking at the world.

Some of the most important aspects that the book, They Call me Güero, touches are the family in the day-to-day life of a border child, he food and how it shows the cultural roots that his family has had for years, and finally how the Güero is fortunate to have the opportunity to participate and live in a social environment that allows him to live different traditions of the two countries.

Some of these traditions are the Quinceañera, the preparation of Mexican tamales, the celebration of the Day of the Dead, and Easter, among others. We wanted to highlight the creation of the cascarones as a celebration that is native to Mexico and the United States. This celebration is held during the month of Easter where children decorate the eggshells and fill them with flour, confetti, frost and other things. The idea is that after making the decoration and filling of these eggs, the game beings… who will break more eggs?

¡¡Manos a la obra!! // Let’s do it!!

List of things to use:

Clean eggshells (preferably white)

Food dyes (various colors)

Confetti or flour (whatever you want to fill the eggs with!)

X-Acto knife


Hot water


Step 1

To begin, we make a small hole in the eggs at one end and then we begin to remove the egg from the shell with care to not break the shell. When you have empty eggshells, we will wash them with water and let them air dry.

Step 2

In cups with a cup of hot water, 1 tsp of vinegar and 10-15 drops of food coloring, we submerge the eggshells in the different colors leaving them to soak for about 5 minutes.

Dare to play with the colors!

This is what our cascarones looked like are after painting them.

Step 3

Now it’s time to add the filling! It’s important to think through what you want to put inside. Maybe a little confetti, or you can be riskier and put some flour in them.

After you put the stuffing in them, you cover the hole with a piece of tissue paper and glue, so that what you put inside the shell will have no way out.

Now you just have to enjoy and play with these fun cascarones.

Other sources

Recap of This Month’s Book and Sneak Peak for the Upcoming Titles

¡Feliz febrero, lectores y educadores!

This month’s book was They Call Me Güero, by David Bowles (Grades 5-8; Lexile: 850L). This read was a very contemporary and engaging read about a middle schooler nicknamed Güero, who shares his experiences as a border kid, and how he navigates between being Mexican and American. Some of the key themes that Bowles has incorporated in this great read include migration, diversity and Latinx cultural traditions. Middle school readers will find this text very relevant and relatable thanks to the details, topics and perspectives that Bowles has utilized.

For Güero and his family, transnational migration between Mexico and the U.S. is deeply ingrained into their familial history and identity. Despite their long history as a border family, Güero shares the tensions and stigma that his family encounters as they go between Mexico and the U.S. In addition to Güero’s experiences, Bowles also includes some of the traumatic experiences of migration through Andrés, one of Güero’s classmates, who confides in Güero about his scary journey from Honduras. In our book group discussion, the consensus was that Bowles succeeded in providing a realistic, and current image of migration and the stigma that often accompanies it, which makes this text relatable to readers who share these experiences.
In addition to sharing migration narratives, Bowles also excels in incorporating diversity and cultural traditions in the text to celebrate diverse cultures. For instance, while introducing his friend group to the reader, Güero describes his friends as a group of diverse nerds in that they each have different cultural backgrounds yet share the same interests in reading and their studies. They Call Me Güero celebrates the reality that today’s classrooms across the U.S. are incredibly diverse and alludes to ways in which educators are integrating diversity into school curriculum (through Güero’s “woke” teachers!).
In Güero’s poems, he describes his normal day-to-day experiences that include his strong familial bonds and his admiration for his grandmother who taught him to read and to be strong, his challenges in school (e.g. dealing with bullies and crushes) and outside of school, the traditions and celebrations that are integral to Güero and his family, and more! Güero’s depiction of traditions and childhood memories led book group attendees to reminisce on our memories spending time with grandparents and learning about life from their stories, attending misa as young, antsy children, making (and breaking!) cascarones, and how these experiences have stuck with us. All in all, we highly recommend They Call Me Güero for its lightheartedness and relevance to today’s middle schoolers.
Click here for the book guide!

Mark your calendar for our next meetings!

*Please note that this semester, we are using rotating locations* Join us to discuss the following books; no need to have read the whole book or even a page. All book groups will run from 4-5:30p–latecomers are always welcome!

On March 5th, we will meet at Humble Coffee Downtown (505 Central Ave NW) to discuss Under the Mesquite by: Guadalupe Garcia McCall. (Grades 6-12)

On April 9th, we will meet at Ponderosa Brewing (1761 Bellamah Ave NW) to discuss Juana and Lucas by: Juana Medina. (Grades 2-4)

Vamos a Leer | Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle | Book Review

On May 4th, we will meet at High and Dry Brewing (529 Adams St. NE) to discuss Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle and Edel Rodriguez. (Grades 7-9)

Vamos a Leer is back!

¡Hola a tod@s, y bienvenidos al año escolar 2019-20!  

We hope that your school year is off to a great start so far!  I have been working hard to update the blog with the selected books for this year’s book group and to include the option to view and request our book and thematic sets directly from the blog. Please check out the menu tabs at the top of the main page to see what we have available for teachers and submit your requests early and often! I am also working on some resources to promote Latinxs in STEM (spoiler!)

Last Monday, we had our first book group meeting to discuss Margarita Engle’s recent novel, Jazz Owls: A Novel of the Zoot Suit Riots. This great read takes place in Los Ángeles during the ‘40s when the chaos of the Zoot Suit Riots (or, as Engle aptly calls them: “the Sailor Riots”) was ensuing between U.S. servicemen and Mexican-American teens. Our group consensus was that Jazz Owls is a quick read that presents a variety of perspectives—from “zooters” and “patriotic girls”  to police officers and reporters—as the plot unveils! 

We loved all the history that is tied into Jazz Owls in addition to all the key themes that could easily engage students in discussion, such as racism/ prejudice and challenging traditional gender roles. Our educators said they would like to use the text in class to teach varying perspectives and to get students engaged with the text by predicting what characters might do next. For more historical context and ideas of how you can incorporate this great read into the classroom, check out this guide for Jazz Owls. Read Engle’s Jazz Owls and let us know what you think!  

Our next book will be Jenny Torres Sánchez’s Because of the Sun, which discusses the struggles Dani faces when her mother is killed, and she is then forced to move from The Sunshine State (Florida) to The Land of Enchantment (New Mexico) to live with her aunt. Will she be enchanted by her new home?? We look forward to seeing you at Red Door Brewery‘s Downtown location (509 Central Ave SE) next month to discuss this great read!  Register here, it’s free!

¡Hasta pronto, lectores y educadores! 


Vamos a Leer is on Summer Break!

person-2468249_960_720Dear fellow readers,

Summer is most certainly upon us now, with just about every classroom emptied of students and teachers enjoying a much-needed opportunity to rest and relax.

Here at our Vamos a Leer offices at the University of New Mexico, everything is extra quiet after a busy year. As you can probably tell from our minimal posting lately, we’re taking a bit of a break from the blog this summer. Yet even while this feels a bit calmer than the frenetic school year, there’s still much afoot just outside our doors in the world of children’s literature. We’re busy planning and preparing for the upcoming school year!

We’re in the process of selecting the books for our 2019-2020 book group now. There are so many great titles! I can’t wait to be back writing about them next year. I’m currently reading Meg Medina’s Merci Suarez Changes Gears, and, not surprisingly, it’s fabulous! You didn’t actually think we weren’t going to feature one of our favorite author’s Newbery Award Winning novels did you?!? I’m also looking forward to reading this year’s recently announced Américas Award winners. So many great books and so little time. Check back at the beginning of August for this year’s book list for our Vamos a Leer book group.

Even though the blog is on hiatus for a few months, we’re still here! Drop us a line, give us some ideas, ask us some questions, and join us in delving into summer books. Please continue to browse the blog and check out all of the great resources that have been added over the last year.

Happy reading,

¡Nuevas guías educativas disponibles en español!

Queridos lectores,

Algunos de vosotros estaréis al tanto de que en nuestra sección Guía del Educador tenemos información últil y relevante de múltiples títulos juveniles para trabajar en el aula. Ahora, además, dichos títulos han sido traducidos al español para que puedan alcanzar una mayor audiencia. Son los siguientes:

RESUMEN DEL LIBRO: Ana Rosa es una escritora joven de doce años y vive en la República Dominicana, un país donde las palabras son temidas. Sin embargo, está rodeada por mucha inspiración—ver a su hermano buscar un futuro, aprender a bailar y amar, y buscar el significado de ser parte de una comunidad—por lo que escribirá mucho. Mientras lucha para encontrar su propia voz y la manera de proyectarla, Ana Rosa pone en práctica el poder de sus palabras para transformar el mundo a su alrededor y para superar las tragedias más inconcebibles.

RESUMEN DEL LIBRO: Anita de la Torre nunca dudó de su libertad mientras vivía en la República Dominicana. Pero para su doceavo cumpleaños en el año 1960, muchos de sus familiares han emigrado a los Estados Unidos, su tío Toni ha desaparecido y la policía secreta aterroriza a su familia por su supuesta oposición al dictador de su país. Mientras sus años en la secundaria deberían enfocarse en la escuela, los niños, sus hermanas y la pubertad, Anita también brega con palabras de código, escapes peligrosos y complots de asesinatos. Inspirada por la perseverancia y fuerza inmedible de su familia, Anita lucha por superar sus miedos y hacer un escape dramático hacia la libertad, dejando atrás todo lo que antes conocía.

RESUMEN DEL LIBRO: Ella era pequeña, rápida y bonita. Su madre le llamaba colibrí. A los cuatro años fue secuestrada, separada de su familia mientras estaban en un autobús lleno de gente en la ciudad de Guatemala. Desde entonces, ha estado viajando con Tío, el exsoldado y viajero pordiosero que le ha puesto el nombre de Rosa. Tío siempre le ha dicho a Rosa que él buscó a sus padres sin éxito. No hay mucha esperanza de que Rosa encuentre a su familia, pero ella aun así los recuerda y los anhela.

Cuando era joven, Tío consultó con videntes y adivinos que le dijeron que Rosa le traería buena suerte—un tesoro tan grande que le duraría toda su vida. A causa de estas noticias, Tío decide quedarse con Rosa todo ese tiempo. Juntos han viajado de pueblo en pueblo en la sierra de Guatemala, batallando para sobrevivir con la esperanza de encontrar el tesoro. Pasan ocho años y Rosa ahora tiene doce años. No han encontrado el tesoro y Tío casi ha perdido la esperanza. Cuando Tío se enoja, se vuelve más peligroso que las demás amenazas que rodean a Rosa.

RESUMEN DEL LIBRO: Después de que el padre de Tyler fuese lastimado en un accidente de tractor, su familia es forzada a emplear a trabajadores migrantes mexicanos para que ayuden a salvar su rancho en Vermont. Tyler no sabe qué pensar sobre estos trabajadores. ¿Son indocumentados? Y qué se puede pensar sobre las tres hijas, especialmente Mari, la hija mayor que se siente orgullosa de su herencia hispana, pero que también se siente conectada a su vida americana. Su familia vive con un miedo constante de ser descubiertos por las autoridades y de que los regresen a México donde vivían en pobreza. ¿Podrán Tyler y Mari llegar a ser amigos a pesar de sus diferencias?

Esperamos que esta información sea de vuestro interés y que los títulos que aquí ofrecemos favorezcan el desarrollo personal de los/las estudiantes así como su capacidad crítica y lingüística; que es el objetivo último de nuestro blog Vamos a Leer.

El que lee mucho y anda mucho, ve mucho y sabe mucho- Miguel Cervantes de Saavedra

We Hear You. Our Response to the Continued #MeToo Movement

Earlier this week, Mia Wenjen of Pragmatic Mom, someone whom we deeply admire, responded to our review of Matt de la Peña’s Carmela: Full of Wishes. She called our attention to de la Peña’s position as one of the accused in the #metoo movement that emerged in recent years among the world of children’s literature.

Rather than respond with another brief comment, we’re taking this as the long overdue moment to acknowledge the #metoo movement and its impact on our work with the Vamos a Leer blog.

While we imagine that many of you are familiar with it, here’s a bit of background. When the #metoo movement in children’s book publishing began in February 2018, prompted by Anne Ursu’s article, “Sexual Harassment in the Children’s Book Industry,” it led to open and difficult conversations across platforms.

A number of acclaimed authors and illustrators drew criticism as women and men began speaking out for the first time. Drew Himmelstein, writing a response piece published by SLJ a month later, observed that “Ursu’s story weaved a narrative that emphasized the patterns and power dynamics that enable sexual harassment at publishing houses, literary conferences and other children’s publishing settings. The piece painted a vivid picture of sexual harassment suffered by authors, illustrators, editors and others that is prevalent even in a female-dominated industry and feeds off of the power discrepancies endemic to the publishing world.”

As space was created to discuss the sexual harassment and unequal power dynamics within the publishing industry, difficult conversations ensued. Among the accused were individuals who had been long revered by many, and whose books held treasured spots on the shelves. This, though, is part of the power of this movement: that individual voices could be heard despite legendary reputations. Matt de la Peña was among those whose names were raised with concerns regarding his conduct toward women.

Similar to many others, de la Peña’s career is characterized by award-winning publications and programming, but these accomplishments should not drown out the voices of the women who have accused him, as Mia Wenjen of Pragmatic Mom pointed out. Thank you, Mia, for making sure that we heard their voices.

We stand with Mia and others working in the field of diversifying children’s literature, particularly for Latinx audiences. To read how others have engaged in this conversation, see De Colores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children and Latinos in Kid Lit – bloggers who responded last year to the #metoo movement, and offered resources to learn more.

Going forward, we will do our best to acknowledge when an author or illustrator has been accused. We will annotate our past posts to include a link to this discussion and will do our best to avoid featuring those individuals in the future. We hear the voices of the men and women who have spoken out, and we stand with them.

~ Vamos a Leer