Meet Our New Contributors!

Happy 2020 everyone! We’re excited for another great year of providing resources and a thoughtful space to discuss and promote K-12 teaching about Latin America.

We’re excited to introduce you to our newest contributors, Ericka Arias and Laura Torres, both MA students in the Latin American Studies program at The University of New Mexico.

Meet Ericka

I am Ericka Arias, and I’m from the Chicago Suburbs (Illinois!). In high school, I got involved in an extracurricular group designed for people interested in teaching. Through this group, I had the opportunity to shadow middle school and high school educators, which piqued my interest in teaching. This led me to pursue a Bachelor of Arts with majors in Spanish, Education and Religion and a minor in Latin American Studies. After graduating, I first taught English in Spain for a year before returning to Illinois where I taught Spanish to Heritage Learners and beginning/ intermediate level students for three years.

What brought you to the UNM Latin American Studies program?
My familial connection to Latin America and my undergraduate studies got me interested in Latin American Studies. While working with primarily Latinx youth in two high schools in Illinois, I was able to share my personal experiences and travel experiences with students in addition to advocating for social justice specifically for Latinx youth. These experiences motivated me to continue my education by pursuing a Master’s Degree in Latin American Studies to further understand social justice issues in Latin America and also those experienced by Latinxs in the U.S., and to explore potential resolutions. I chose UNM because of its wide array of concentrations and dual degrees available to students in the MALAS program that each offer unique frameworks for understanding and resolving these issues.

What most excites you about working with the LAII K12 program?
I admire the emphasis on diversity and social justice that the LAII’s K-12 program has and how this mission guides its curricula, programs and initiatives. I am grateful for the opportunity to utilize my experiences as a teacher and my interests in promoting diversity, equity and social justice.

Meet Laura

I am from Bogota the capital city of a beautiful country in Latin America named Colombia. I grew up admiring and learning from my mom’s example because when I was a kid my mom used to work as a teacher. While I grew up, I started getting involved in serving the community and teaching. After I finished high school, I decided to get a Bachelor’s in Social Sciences and a focus on teaching. I had the opportunity to work in different social contexts and teaching projects with kids and adults from ages 8 to 27.

What brought you to the UNM Latin American Studies program?
Now I am a M.A Latin American student at the University of New Mexico, in one of the most beautiful states I have had the opportunity to be in. I am looking forward to learn how the Latin American societies are, the diversity, the culture, the history, the main issues and so on. All this interest in Latin America is because I want to be able to share a correct view of what we are as Latinos to the world.

What most excites you about working with the LAII K12 program?
This LAII K12 program is one of those opportunities I have to share about my country, my experiences as a Colombian and my experiences as Latina. As I was saying before, I am interested in Latin America and the K12 program is the perfect opportunity to learn, teach and share knowledge of the amazing Latin American culture.

Some of you may know that Cumbia is from Colombia but some may not. That is why I want to share with you one of the most incredible songs I have ever heard.

We’re looking forward to another great year of blog posts, workshops, discussions, and more as we work together to promote Latin American studies in the K-12 classroom.

Why Hasn’t the Number of Multicultural Books Increased In Eighteen Years?

Hello, all,

’tis the season, I suppose, to question the paucity of publishers working with multicultural children’s literature.  Yesterday I shared an NPR article with you and today I bring you a blog post from Lee & Low Book’s blog, The Open Book.  While we’re pondering the question here at Vamos a Leer and our readers are musing on it in their living rooms, classrooms, coffee shops, and libraries, Lee & Low went ahead to do a public poll of academics, authors, librarians, educators, and reviews to see “if they could put their fingers on the reason why the number of diverse books has not increased.”  And they didn’t poll just anyone – the people who offer answers in the blog post are among the top minds and writers working toward multicultural literature for children.

It’s a great, albeit troubling, read. Check it out here: Why Hasn’t the Number of Multicultural Books Increased In Eighteen Years?



Do White-centric books sell better?

Hello, all,

I hope the summer months are treating you well.  In case you’re not using your free time to track NPR’s Morning Edition, I wanted to pop in here and share one of their recent articles.  It piqued my interest and may do the same for you.

“Do White-centric books sell better?” So asks a recent article, “As Demographics Shift, Kids’ Book Stay Stubbornly White,” by NPR.  The article aired on Morning Edition on June 25, 2013.  It points out an issue that forms the basis of many of our discussions here at Vamos a Leer – “that when it comes to diversity, children’s books are sorely lacking; instead of presenting a representative range of faces, they’re overwhelmingly white.” Continue reading

For Young Latino Readers, an Image is Missing

Hello everyone!

I thought I’d chime in for a moment and share an article that my colleagues from the Américas Award just passed along to me.  If you haven’t done so yet, check out the New York Time’s recent bit on “For Young Latino Readers, an Image Is Missing”.  The author, Motoko Rich, observes that the typical stories we read nowadays in our elementary classrooms (like the Magic Tree House or the Diary of a Wimpy Kid) are devoid of familiar images for our students of color. The issue of lack of representation in classroom texts is one which our blog constantly tries to redress, but it’s refreshing to see it appear in a mainstream newspaper.

We’re always on the lookout for research or articles like this one, so let us know if you hear of anyone else doing similar studies or tackling the topic!


Quick Bit: More resources on Latino Heritage Month and Rethinking Columbus

I just came across these resources and wanted to share them here, as both seem to be popular topics among our readers.

Latino Heritage Month and Hispanic Heritage Month Resource: The Zinn Education Project just recently wrote about one of our own Vamos a Leer featured authors: Margarita Engle.  They highlighted her book: Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba. They write, “This book of historical fiction by Margarita Engle for ages 10+ tells the story of refugee ships from Germany during WWII, turned away from the U.S. and Canada, that sailed on to Cuba. Despite an intense anti-Semitic propaganda campaign waged by German government agents in Cuba, and the fact that the island of Cuba was much smaller and poorer, Cuba took in 65,000 refugees. This is the same number as were taken in by the U.S.”  Their facebook page also lists a number of upcoming events in D.C. related to Latino literature, including the Americas Book Award on October 5th where you can meet Engle.

Rethinking Columbus Resource: Rethinking Schools editor Bill Bigelow recently wrote an interesting article for GOOD magazine.  Not only does he make a great argument for the need to Rethink Columbus, but also links the same ideological issues surrounding our teaching of Columbus to the recent attacks on Tucson’s Mexican-American Studies Program.  Check out Bigelow’s latest “If We Knew Our History” column for the Zinn Education Project at


More on National Hispanic Heritage Month: The Zinn Education Project

As many of our readers seem to be very interested in resources for teaching about Hispanic Heritage Month, I thought I’d write a quick post with links to more resources I’ve come across recently. If you haven’t read other posts we’ve shared on the topic, check out Ailesha’s and Cindy’s ideas.

Continue reading

Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood: Resources, Blogs, and other Thoughts

As you’ve probably read, we’re highlighting Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood for our August book group meeting.  The winners of our Book Give Away will be announced later this afternoon!! We’ll be posting our own review and our Educator’s Guide in the next two weeks, but I thought I’d share what other reviewers and bloggers have said about the book below.

Reading in Color is a great blog.  What makes it even better, is that it is written by a teen!! To give you a better idea of the purpose of the blog, I’ve shared the author’s own words below–

“Reading in Color is a book blog that reviews YA/MG books about people of color
(poc). There is a serious lack of books being reviewed by teens that are YA/MG
about people of color, I hope my blog is one step closer to filling in this
I started Reading in Color after I discovered the wonderful
world of book blogs. I loved being able to discuss books with fellow book
lovers. But I soon noticed that very few books about POC were being reviewed. I
wanted recommendations of YA books about POC, sometimes I got tired of reading
about the white norm. So I started this blog to get recommendations about YA
POC and share them with others. After all, I couldn’t be the only teen of color
who felt this way? Since starting my blog, I’ve been including MG that features

How often do we wish we’d know what our teen readers think about a book before we use it in class the first time? Here you can! Reading in Color reviewed Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood! Check it out to see what they said!

Three other blogs I really like also reviewed the book, so I’ve linked to them below. I hope these will give you a better sense of the book and it’s potential value if you’re considering reading it and/or using it in your classroom.