Hispanic American Heritage Language & Literacy Books

In the United States, September 15th-October 15th is known as Hispanic Heritage month. It is a selected time to nationally recognize and celebrate the contributions of Hispanics and Latinos in the fabric of U.S. society. The 15th marks the independence days of five Latin America countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

It is important to celebrate the culture, people, and achievements that the diversity of Hispanic and Latino culture provides to the United States.

Do you know the difference between the terms Hispanic or Latino? Hispanic refers to people who speak Spanish and those from Hispanic speaking countries. Latino encompasses people who speak Spanish or Portugese and were born in Latin America or their family are descendants from Latin America. Latin America includes Central America, South America, Mexico and certain Caribbean islands such as Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Cuba. Hispanic or Latino people are from various races. Although there are similarities, there is also diversity among Hispanic and Latino people. Each country of origin provides it’s own special contribution to the fabric of Hispanic and Latino society.

There are children’s literature authors that have purposefully wrote non-fiction and fiction books that highlight various aspects of this special culture. Here are a few book recommendations that speech-language pathologists, teachers, and parents can purposefully use with children. Children can learn about the diversity of the world while building language and literacy skills that are foundations for their life success.

16 Extraordinary Hispanic Americans by Nancy Lobb

This non-fiction book has various interesting biographies of Hispanic Americans that have influenced society in a positive way. Children can learn about the lives of labor/civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, astronaut Ellen Ochoa, author Sandra Cisneros, actress/dancer/singer Rita Moreno, politician Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and other significant people. As an added bonus, the author provides comprehension questions at the end of each biography. Speech language pathologist and teachers can use this book to build children’s listening comprehension and vocabulary skills.

Abuela by Arthur Dorros

This is a beautiful story about a little girl, Rosalba who spends a day with her grandmother in New York city. They first travel on the bus and go to the park. They feed the birds and Rosalba imagines what it would be like to fly like a pajaro or bird. The rest of the storyline transports the readers and listeners on an adventure around New York city. Where will they go? What will they experience? What does Rosalba love most about her special day?This book uses many Spanish words throughout the story. It includes a glossary at the back with the English meanings and the Spanish pronunciations.

The Empanadas that Abuela Made by Diane Gonzales Bertrand

Las Empandas Que Hacia La Abuela

Diane Gozales Bertrand wrote this light hearted story as she recalled her experiences making and eating empanadas, a popular pastry, in Hispanic and Latino culture. I like that this is a bilingual book, written in English and Spanish. This book is good for speech-language pathologists or teachers to teach basic sequencing of events and learn about a food that is an intregal part of a Latino family’s culture . The story line is simple yet humorous as the readers and listeners are introduced to different characters and steps to make delicious empanadas with a fall ingredient, pumpkin. How will it taste? The author includes a recipe at the end of the book. There are definitely some savory and sweet ingredients like cinnamon and sugar in this loving family recipe.

Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina

This story describes a familiar story of many Hispanic and Latino families. In this story, Abuela, comes to live with her family because it was becoming too difficult for her to live on her own. The little girl will now share her room with her abuela or grandmother. After school, her grandmother watches her while her parents are at work. She is still learning English and the little girl doesn’t know a lot of Spanish. They share new experiences such as going to the park, making “meat pies” or empanadas, and learning new words together. One day, the little girl decides to buy a parrot when out shopping in the city with her mother. She names the parrot, Mango, because of his colors and as a gift for her Abuela who had a red parrot that frequently visited her mango tree in her home country. Mango becomes a new and special addition to the family. I recommend this book to teach vocabulary, listening comprehension, grammar in context, and to get a glimpse of Hispanic culture in a practical way.

Lucia the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garzar

The author writes this entertaining and empowering story about Lucia, who likes to imagine that she is a superhero. One day some boys on the playground tell her that “girls can’t be superheroes.” What? When she goes home, she tells her grandmother or abuela all about it. Her abuela knows just what to do. She sews her an amazing and colorful superhero outfit and tells her all about the luchadoras, the strong and bold women from Mexico. Children will get a kick out of the rest of the storyline and the illustrations in the book. Just make sure that you have a discussion about fiction, non-fiction, school rules, and imaginative play! This is a fun book many young children will enjoy! Speech-language pathologists can use this book to work on vocabulary, story retell, and listening comprehension.

Celia Cruz Queen of Salsa by Veronica Chambers

Celia Cruz was a talented salsa singer and dancer from Havana, Cuba. She is well known in Latin America and influenced the culture. The illustrations are vibrant and the book is rich with vocabulary as it explains the life of Celia Cruz in a kid friendly way. She was an Afro-Cuban woman who overcame many obstacles in life while pursuing her entertainment career. She successfully achieved 7 Grammy awards and attained 23 gold musical albums. This children’s book also tells the story about her immigration to the United States and how she never got the opportunity to return to her home Caribbean island of Cuba. This book can be used in speech-language therapy or the classroom to teach story elements, basic comprehension, critical thinking, tier 2 vocabulary, and other language/literacy skills. There are numerous practice opportunities for children to build skills.

There are many other non-fiction and fiction books that are ideal for Hispanic Heritage interactive read alouds in speech language therapy, classroom, and/or at home. You may also like…

From North to South Del Norte al Sur by Rene Colato Lainez

Sonia Sotomayor Turning Pages, My Life Story

Harvesting Hope, The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull

The Princess and The Warrior by Duncan Tonatiuh

Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown

Amelia’s Show and Tell Fiesta by Mimi Chapra and Martha Aviles

Do you have favorites that you use in speech-language therapy or the classroom? Tell me in the comments below.

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