March 23rd | Week in Review


¡Hola a todos! Below are this week’s resources. I hope you have as much fun reading them as I did in gathering them!

– Beacon Broadside shared “To Write is to Resist and to Raise Women’s Silenced Voices,” an interview with Jennifer Browdy about writing Women Writing Resistance: Essays on Latin America and the Caribbean. According to Browdy, she “learned so much through working with these writers to put together this anthology.” Both this short interview and the book itself would be great resources to share with older students if you wanted to engage in them in conversations about the importance of writing their stories and lifting their voices, or in discussions about important feminist writers of Latin America and the Caribbean.

–  Check out how Washington’s Yakima School District teachers are learning Spanish to better help their students. According to one of the instructors “these lessons allow the teachers to see the classroom from the kid’s perspective, which allows them to better present their subjects.”

– For those of you wondering where to find nursery rhymes in children’s books, De Colores compares two children’s books influenced by Latinx culture and the Spanish language. Read their full review to find out why they highly recommend one, but not the other.

– From NPR, a story on how “In Junot Díaz’s ‘Islandborn,’ A Curious Child Re-Createse Her Dominican Roots.” “‘She is an immigrant who came over so young, she has no memories of the land that she left behind,’ Díaz says. ‘And of course she is surrounded by a community that talks endlessly about the island.’ She’s about 6 years old, the age Díaz was when he and his family fled to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, which was torn apart by the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. Islandborn, illustrated by Leo Espinosa, follows Lola’s quest to find out about the mysterious nation.”

 – In their ongoing series about culturally responsive teaching for all grades, Lee and Low has put together their list of 10 Favorite Multicultural Books for Middle School.

-You might want to check out Puerto Rico Strong, a “new comic book anthology that raises money for Puerto Rico by telling stories of history and fantasy” by Lion Forge. “All profits from Lion Forge’s just-released “Puerto Rico Strong” anthology, written and illustrated by some of the top Puerto Rican and Latino talent in the comic book industry, will go to the United Way of Puerto Rico. Lion Forge’s pledge will assist with nonprofit child-care facilities, community schools and health-care centers.” The book offers a “..deep dive into Puerto Rican culture. Stories range from Taino warriors taking a stand against colonization and Puerto Rico’s ugly history of forced sterilization to Puerto Rican pride and even space exploration.”

– Por fin, tal vez les gusten los comentarios al libro ‘De segunda mano’ de Osiris Mosquea’ por Xánath Caraza. Segun el comentador, el libro “nos llena de imágenes contundentes a través de una prosa estructurada en microrrelatos y pigmeismos que, igual que la violencia, llega concentrada, a su máximo, de realidades desgarradoras y sin aviso.”

Alin Badillo

Image: Monarch Butterflies. Reprinted from Flickr user CNNF_CatwillowMonarchArea under CC©.



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

Reading Roundup: 10 Afro-Caribbean Children’s and Young Adult Books

Feb 2016 Afro-Caribbean Narrative

¡Buenos días!

I hope everyone is having a great week! I’m glad to be back with our Reading Roundup. This month’s list goes with our theme of Afro-Caribbean narratives. In the spirit of Black History Month, we are highlighting the importance of inclusive conversations in the classroom focused on race and diverse narratives, with a focus on civil rights. As Keira emphasized in her Sobre Febrero post, it’s important for these conversations to continue beyond the “heritage month” period, and so I hope that you’ll use this Reading Roundup list as year-round inspiration in your classroom.

While compiling these titles, I took extra care to include books that simultaneously celebrate the cultural diversity and richness of Afro-Caribbean peoples and acknowledge their difficult histories, including narratives related to slavery, repression, and what it means to be a part of a diaspora community in exile.  Together or individually, I’m hopeful that these titles will prompt meaningful conversations with and among your students.  Below are a few resources that may be helpful as you undertake that effort (thanks to Charla for her earlier posts highlighting some of these materials!) Continue reading

¡Mira, Look!: Encounter

A few weeks ago the U.S. observed Columbus Day, a holiday which many have questioned. Outspoken critics have rejected the notion that Columbus ‘discovered’ America and ushered in an era of civilization, arguing instead that his arrival resulted in the domination and genocide of thousands of indigenous peoples throughout the Americas and Native Americans in the US. These critical responses led to protests, which have coalesced into sporadic policy changes throughout the US.   Some cities like Minneapolis and Seattle have replaced Columbus Day with “Indigenous Peoples Day,” and some states, like South Dakota and Hawaii, have reclaimed the holiday to honor their respective indigenous peoples. The protests continue to grow, which means that now is an opportune moment to involve your students in these critical conversations.

It can be challenging for educators who try to “rethink Columbus,” because there is a shortage of classroom material and children’s literature that tackle this issue from the perspective of indigenous peoples. Too few of our textbooks and novels ever address the other side of the narrative – who was it whom Columbus encountered? The voices of the Taino, the people who first greeted Columbus, are never told. I would wager that many have never even heard of the Taino people, which is shocking given the pervasiveness of Columbus’ version of history.

That is why this week I present tencountero you a children’s book that tells a different story of the arrival of Columbus: Encounter (ages 6-12), written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by David Shannon, is told from the fictionalized perspective of a boy who was part of the Taino, the first tribe to have interacted with Columbus. Continue reading

En la Clase: Rethinking Conquest and Colonization

bigstock-Discovery-america-Spanish-sold-6982447 [Converted] copyIn just a few weeks, Monday October 13th will be observed as Columbus Day.  Banks will close, stores will have special sales, and many students will learn about how Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas. Yet, this type of observance only tells one part or version of the Columbus narrative, leaving out significant parts of a violent and traumatic period in the history of the Americas.  Christopher Columbus is one of the first historical figures many of our students learn about.  The way he’s presented sets an important precedent for how all historical narratives are taught, analyzed, and interpreted. Consider the following from Bill Bigelow of Rethinking Schools: Continue reading

En la Clase: Rethinking Columbus Through Literature

This fall, for the third year in a row, the LAII will hold a teacher workshop on “Rethinking Columbus” in our classrooms.  It’s an important topic to us at Vamos a Leer.  It would be almost impossible for a student to go through school in the U.S. without learning about Columbus.  He’s a significant figure in the history of the Americas, and we certainly don’t dispute that at Vamos a Leer.  Our interest is much more in how Columbus is presented and what knowledge is privileged in the classrooms. The following is an excerpt from a post I wrote last year.  For those new to our blog, I thought I’d share it to give you some background on why we think Columbus is such an important topic.  Continue reading

En la Clase: Using the novel Morning Girl in the classroom

Morning GirlAs many of you may already know, our featured novel for January is Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck by Margarita Engle.  If the novel is new to you, be sure to check out our Book Review and Educator’s Guide.  In discussing the book through comments here on the blog and our book group meeting, a common theme continues to arise: Hurricane Dancers is a great way to teach an alternative point of view to the commonly presented ‘discovery’ of the Americas.  Sadly, there aren’t many great children’s or young adult books out there that do this.  So, for today’s En la Clase post, I thought I’d share another book that also provides an alternative narrative to the discovery story: Michael Dorris’ Morning Girl. Below, I’ve included a  link to the pdf of our Educator’s Guide on Morning Girl–just scroll to the end of the post. Continue reading

En la Clase: Rethinking Columbus with Mind Maps and Venn Diagrams

In our last En la Clase post, I wrote about how I’ve used a GLAD strategy called Pictorial Input Charts to teach content knowledge to my students.  In this post, I’m going to share another GLAD strategy that builds on the Pictorial Input Chart: the Mind Map.  I’d never heard of a Mind Map until I participated in an introductory workshop on GLAD.  I was curious about how my students would respond to it, so I implemented it right away.  I have to admit, I was a little surprised at how much they liked it.  I used it numerous times throughout the year, often because they’d ask to do it.  To help you visualize the activity, I’ve included a blank version of a Mind Map below.

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En la Clase: Rethinking Columbus Using Pictorial Input Charts

Pictorial Input Charts are another activity adapted from GLAD teaching strategies (click here to be taken to the Project GLAD website).  For more information on GLAD strategies there is a great free resource book in pdf format available here.  I’ve had great success using these.  I’ve found it a much more engaging and interesting way to present information to my students.

Continue reading