Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 – October 15 each year, and our favorite way to honor the occasion is by sharing some of our very favorite children’s books honoring Hispanic heritage. So this year. I’ve picked five brand new books that celebrate this vibrant culture, so you can read along all month long with your kids.
But we couldn’t let this month go by without mentioning that this past year has been a particularly horrific one for many of our Hispanic and Latinx neighbors, both in the US and abroad.
We’re especially thinking about how we can best help the migrant and asylum-seeking families who continue to be illegally separated at the US border. Because it’s unconscionable to us as humans, but especially painful to think about as parents ourselves.
So while we certainly hope you’ll add a few of these books to your personal library — particularly if you’re not one of the USA’s 47 million Hispanic citizens — we hope you’ll do a little more this month to support those who want a chance at the American dream for their families too.
In fact, after reading these books with your kids, the the opportunity to talk together about what else you can do to appreciate and celebrate the Hispanic culture in your own community. We’re sure your kids will have some incredible, inspiring ideas. They always do, don’t they?
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Since the border separations and migrant camps are such an important issue for us to be talking about with our kids right now, we’ll be reading Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border by Mitali Perkins and Sara Palacios. It tells the story of two children visiting the border wall to exchange Christmas gifts with their Abuela through the gaps in the wall, and it’s certainly going to tug at your heartstrings in the most uplifting way. Plus, it’s stories like these that personalize these experience to help kids develop more compassion and empathy for those who live differently than they do.
I’m hoping my kids will be as inspired as I am by the brand-new book Soldier for Equality: José de la Luz Sáenz and the Great War by Duncan Tonatiuh. This story follows the career of the brilliant Mexican-American soldier known as Luz, who served the US military as a language specialist in the Intelligence Office during WW1. Even while fighting for our country, he faced outrageous racial discrimination and bigotry (something still common today, by the way) and ultimately fought to help secure equal rights for Latinos through his tireless activism. He eventually created the oldest Latino civil rights organization in America, and his story is an important one.
I love finding fascinating biographies of lesser-known figures for my kids to learn from (as much as we love Frida Kahlo), and Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln by Margarita Engle and Rafael López is a beautiful new book for our shelves. It tells the true story of the young piano prodigy Teresa Carreño, who fled the war in Venezuela with her family and came to America as a refugee during the Civil War era. Her skill took her all the way to the White House, which is a great reminder that many prominent Americans came here as refugees too. Plus, it’s just a beautiful story about how music can bring comfort to us, even in the most difficult times.
For younger kids who are familiar with the classic story “The House that Jack Built,” this festive, Latina variation will delight. The Piñata That The Farm Maiden Hung by Samantha Vamos and Sebastià Serra, builds as the farm maiden prepares for a party with help from the various farm animals around her. The bilingual book seamlessly incorporates Spanish words at an increasing pace, so your kids learn as they read. It’s a fun, light look at Hispanic culture that even our youngest kids are enjoying.
If you want to kick off the month with a book that’s colorful and fun, I recommend Pepe and the Parade: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage by Tracey Kyle and Mirelle Ortega. The story follows Pepe as he goes to town to watch the Hispanic Day parade, a setting offering a great look at the diversity of Hispanic cultures in America — 11 in all including Mexican, Puerto Rican, Chilean, Cuban, Guatemalan…each with their own distinctive subcultures. Those of you families in communities like San Jose, Houston, and Brooklyn may already be familiar with the exciting diversity of your Hispanic neighbors, but for a lot of kids, this book will be an exciting introduction to Hispanic heritage — and a terrific conversation starter for parents, too.