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Explore the “mundo Hispanico” during Latino Book Month!

I just love those “today is national…” and “This Month is …” calendars. You know, the ones that tell us what to celebrate…


Well, this month, according to the Association of American Publishers, is Latino Book Month! You may know by now that I am a Latina. My mother’s side of the family is Hispanic (Puerto Rican by birth and culturally Cuban – long story…), and even though I’ve always been a voracious reader, I have to be honest that I’ve been a little short on books written by Latina authors.

So the researcher in my got to researchin’…

And I found a treasure-trove of tomes! I started out by reading some short summaries and reviews on Latinas4LatinoLit.com and LatinoStories.com, and came up with a list of 10 books that you may want to try out for starters (see below).

(I think the librarians wondered what was going on when my account exploded with all these titles on reserve, but so be it!)

Yet at this point, I realize you may be asking me this:

I’m not a Latina – so why celebrate Latino Book Month?

Well, here are some statistics* for you to consider:
1. One in four children born in the US is Latino.
2. Latinos make up about 14% of the US population, and 16% of the entire population is under 18 years of age, a number that is steadily growing.
3. Latinos are younger than the US population as a whole, positioning them as a potentially large segment of the population in the future.
4. And yet, only about 2% of the approximately 5,000 children’s books published in the US are by or about Latinos, a statistic which is not growing. *Source

The term “latino” (or “latina”) covers a myriad of countries and cultures. As I learned from first-hand experience, there are many words and phrases that are used in one country or region that you’d dare not use in another. Foods, history, and customs also vary from place to place; and Latinos are often only loosely connected via the Spanish language. Even then, there are often pronunciation differences and colloquialisms.

So, as you can see, opening up a book to celebrate Latino Book month opens up a fascinating array of cultures and countries to explore!

Assuming that if you’re reading this far I’ve at least piqued your curiosity, here is a list of 9+ books you can try this month to celebrate Latino Book Month with a literary flair: (Of course, please preview all books here to ensure they pass your family’s muster.)

Libros Latinos for the kids:
Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto – This is the story of a treasure thought to be lost in a batch of tamales, a desperate and funny attempt by Maria and her cousins to eat their way out of trouble, and the warm way a family pulls together to make it a perfect Christmas after all.

Book Fiesta by Pat Mora – A bilingual picture book

My Name is Maria Isabel by Alma Flor Ada – For María Isabel Salazar López, the hardest thing about being the new girl in school is that the teacher doesn’t call her by her real name. “We already have two Marías in this class,” says her teacher. “Why don’t we call you Mary instead?”

There’s a Coqui in My Shoe by Marisa de Jesus Paolicelli – This distinctive and delightful story celebrating Puerto Rico’s national treasure, the Eleutherodactylus (El-oo-thear-oh-dak-till-us) coqui (co-kee), would be a great open door to a fascinating cross-curricular unit study!

Libros Latinos for teens:
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan – Esperanza and her mother are forced to leave their life of wealth and privilege in Mexico to go work in the labor camps of Southern California, where they must adapt to the harsh circumstances facing Mexican farm workers on the eve of the Great Depression.

Ana of California: A Novel by Andi Teran Inspired by and a contemporary twist of Anne of Green Gables! this captivating novel offers a contemporary twist on that beloved classic. Fifteen-year-old orphan Ana Cortez has just blown her last chance with a foster family. It’s a group home next—unless she agrees to leave East Los Angeles for a farm trainee program in Northern California, where she continues to find a place to belong.

Almost anything by Laura Resau; my 12-year old daughter and I have enjoyed The Queen of Water, The Indigo Notebook, and  The Lightning Queen.

Libros Latinos for moms:
Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia – A vivid and funny first novel about three generations of a Cuban family divided by conflicting loyalties over the Cuban revolution, set in the world of Havana in the 1970s and ’80s and in an emigre neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros – Told in a series of vignettes – sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous – this is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become.

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez – The voices of four sisters—Minerva, Patria, María Teresa, and Dedé—speak across the decades to tell their own stories and describe the everyday horrors of life under Trujillo’s rule. This novel speaks to courage and love, and the human cost of political oppression.

Most homeschoolers I know love to read. But if your kiddos are finding they’d like something new or different in preparation for summer… if you want to branch out just a little…or if you’re looking for something just a bit different to build a unit study from…consider exploring the “mundo hispanico” and crack open something by a Latin author during Latino Book Month!

**This article originally appeared in the iHomeschool Network blog.

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Pat is a Yankee city-girl who has been adopted by the sleepy, sunny south. Married for 30 years and the mother of 5, she woke up one day recently to discover she reached the stage of life where she is the “older woman” described in Titus 2:3-5. A coffee lover, the purchase of a coffee shop a few years ago was her personal foray into the small, family-owned business arena.Today, PatAndCandy.com is her outlet for packaging up and sharing the nuggets of wisdom God and life experiences have taught her.
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