Saludos todos! This week we are continuing our November themes of food, and specifically its cultural importance, with another great read, El gusto del Mercado Mexicano/ A Taste of the Mexican Market, written and illustrated by Nancy Maria Grande Tabor. This wonderfully interactive book is great for celebrating food, includingthe vibrant colors of fruits and vegetables, the textures of different nuts, and the distinct shapes of different meats and fishes. It also engages kids in valuable exercises in counting, describing what they see, and learning new vocabulary on food and the different ways to prepare food. The book even won the Scientific American Young Readers Book Award for its variegated educational import.
The pages are structured as a type of interactive game. The first page, for example, shows the front wall of a market with words that read, “En una visita a Mexico se pueden comer muchas comidas diferentes. Ven conmigo al Mercado mexicano. Mi canasta esta vacia y aqui tengo la lista de compras. Vamos!/ On a visit to Mexico you can eat many different foods. Come with me to the Mexican market. My basket is empty and here is the shopping list. Let’s go!” On the sides of the page readers see a long list of items to be found in the market. As the book progresses, the narration guides readers on an instructive journey through the Mexican market, addressing the young reader directly with a didactic and playful tone: “Vamos a encontrar las frutas que tenemos en nuestra lista/ Let’s find the fruits on our list.” The narration also engages readers by asking them direct questions, prompting dialogue and reflection between the reader and his/her peers, parent or teacher: “Hay frutas en el Mercado mexicano que nunca has visto?/ Does the Mexican market have any fruits you have never seen before?” Not only do these questions encourage readers to engage more with the text, they also stimulate intercultural observation, reflecting on what is new or foreign to them, what is different between the market in Mexico and the market that they are accustomed to.
Saludos todos! This week we will be reviewing a book that has recently come out and was a finalist for the International Latino Book Awards in both the category of “Best Educational Children’s Picture Book—English” and “Most Inspirational Children’s Picture Book—English.” My Abuela is Sick, written by Jennifer Bisignano and illustrated by Gaston Hauviller, tells the story of a young, female protagonist who confronts the reality of her ailing, dying grandmother, which is likely also her first encounter with death. Keeping in line with our themes for the month, this book is especially useful for young children to begin discussing and conceptualizing death, and for those already struggling with these experiences, to find solace in the shared experience of a relatable protagonist. The book may also aid teachers looking for resources to help their students through difficult times.
As more and more people begin to talk about the need for diversity in our classroom curricula and literature, we must remember that diversity can’t exist just for diversity’s sake. Conversations in our classrooms around diversity can intentionally or unintentionally lead to the perpetuation of stereotypes and labels. As Colleen pointed out in last week’s post identity is complex. She asks an important question: How does one meaningfully capture the range of cultural practices, traditions, languages, religions, geography, race, and ethnicity – just to name a few – of those who identify as Latinx? While we want to teach about the multitude of cultures, ethnicities, and races that make up our classroom, our nation, and our world, we also want to make sure that we are providing the space for our students to express and identity both their cultural background and their own uniqueness.
One way to accomplish this is to build a strong classroom community. It won’t happen overnight, but in the long run it’s always worth the time and effort. Lee and Low Books just shared a free unit on “Building Classroom Community Unit for Kindergarten.” Based on eight different read-aloud books, the lessons provide in-depth literacy engagement while also encouraging students to connect through sharing about themselves and learning about others. The lessons can be easily adapted for older children as well.
Hola a todos! I am very excited to share with everyone my first “official” post. Going forward, we’ll be using Friday’s World Wide Web column as an opportunity to bring you current conversations and resources related to teaching about Latinx culture. I hope you enjoy reading the materials as much as I enjoy collecting them!
– Marley Dias is our new heroine! She’s a young woman who’s made national headlines through her efforts to rethink school reading lists. If you haven’t joined her fan club yet, check out the NY Times blog article on “#1000BlackGirlBooks Campaign Expands.”
– “Moomins and Tintin are great, but where are new translated children’s books?” This article that Daniel Hahn wrote for The Guardian talks about the importance of translating children’s books into different languages.
–The Pittsburgh Carrier highlights the need for diverse children’s literature with their article on “Child Watch…Children of Color Need to See Themselves in Books”
–Education Week recently shared an article focused on “Teaching Global Children’s Literature: What to Read and How to Read.” Here’s a snippet to pique your interest: “Teachers must attend to which cultures are represented, underrepresented, misrepresented, and invisible in children’s books (what to read) as well as recontextualize these books within the history, culture, and time from which they emerged (how to read).”
–neaToday (the blog of the National Education Association) brings up how to honor and acknowledge students’ heritage in the classroom through pronouncing their names correctly: The Lasting Impact of Mispronouncing Students’ Names
– Lastly, from the NY Times, many of us here at Vamos a Leer found Kwame Alexander’s discussion of “Children’s Books and the Color of Characters” super meaningful.
Saludos, todos! This week we are featuring Doña Flor: A Tall Tale about a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart, written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Raúl Colón. This wonderful story falls perfectly in line with this month’s theme of Women’s History Month, focusing on positive representations of women in children’s literature and our appreciation for the women in our every-day lives. With Doña Flor, Mora narrates the story of a giant, benevolent woman, literally aggrandizing and extolling the female protagonist. Doña Flor challenges many unfortunate yet common ideas—that women should take up less space, speak less loudly and opine less frequently—by featuring a goddess-like woman who is unapologetically large and undeniably cherished. In effect, Mora’s story captures a childlike perspective of awe and admiration, reminding readers of the larger-than-life women in their own lives.
Doña Flor: A Tall Tale about a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart (ages 6-8) is a “tall tale” that uses a series of hyperboles to create an exaggerated and fantastical story. Doña Flor is a beloved member of her community, assisting all her friends and neighbors in any way she can. She carries the children on her back when they’re late to school; she makes giant-sized tortillas for everyone to eat, and always functions as a conciliatory, amiable force amongst the village people. And, finally, when a little mountain lion frightens the village by roaring into a hollowed out log, the fearless Doña Flor finds the cat, makes him purr and smile instead of roar and menace, and ultimately teaches him how to get along with the other village animals and people.
For this week’s En la Clase, I’m sharing our review of Separate is Never Equal, one of this year’s Americas Award Winners. It’s a great book to explore themes of love of self, love of family, and love of community, while also teaching about an often overlooked but important piece of the Civil Rights Movement.
In next week’s En la Clase, I’ll share the free educator’s guide created for the book.
Separate is Never Equal
Written and Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh
Published by Harry N. Abrams, 2014
Age Level: 7-12
Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Mendez was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California.
There are a number of reasons why Duncan Tonatiuh’s book, Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, is so important. In writing it, he did something that no one else has. No other children’s picture book on the Mendez case exists. Moreover, the book is well-researched and compellingly illustrated. By drawing on primary source documents, court transcripts, and interviews with Sylvia Mendez herself, Tonatiuh has created an important historical book for younger and older children alike. Continue reading