Those of you who have been following this blog for a while know that I am a voracious reader. I love stories of all types, and I believe reading can open many doorways in the world of education. For example, I’m always amazed how a few simple prose can connect our vast human family. Even if we don’t speak the same language or come from the same cultural background, the written word can bridge those gaps through our shared human experiences. It’s also an important reminder that heroes come from all walks of life.
As I’ve mentioned before, September 15th through October 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s a time when we as citizens recognize and appreciate the contributions Hispanic Americans have made to our country’s culture, science, and history. So today, I would like to share several books you can use to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with your students. From biographies, to poetry and more, your students are certain to be swept away by these five amazing books.
*Important Note: Some of the books listed below deal with mature subjects and are not appropriate for all readers. Be sure to review them thoroughly before handing them off to your children!
Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull and Yuyi Morales
Grade Level: K – 3
Written by popular children’s author Kathleen Krull and illustrated by the award-winning Yuyi Morales, Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez introduces young readers to one of the most influential civil rights leaders in American History. Students will discover how Chavez began his life as a field hand in California. Witnessing the mistreatment of migrant workers drove him to take a stand for better working conditions. His historic 1965 strike against grape growers and the subsequent march for “La Causa” are recounted in vivid detail. Best of all, readers are left with the inspiring message that they too have the potential to make a difference.
Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes by Juan Felipe Herrera and Raul Colón
Grade Level: 4 – 8
In this visually stunning book, author and poet Juan Felipe Herrera presents readers with twenty Hispanic and Latino American men and women who have made outstanding contributions to our nation. Featuring artists, politicians, athletes, actors, and scientists, students will be dazzled by these extraordinary heroes and the lives they have lived. Each individual profile also includes a brief biography as well as quotes from the individuals themselves. Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes is an excellent book for introducing your students to the powerful and diverse history of the United States.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Grade Level: 6 – 8
Esperanza Rising begins in Mexico where a young a carefree Esperanza lives a charmed life on her family’s ranch. However, when a sudden tragedy shatters her world, Esperanza and her mother are forced to flee to California and take up work as farm laborers. There Esperanza is confronted with poverty, prejudice, and the financial downfalls of the Great Depression. Esperanza must find a way to rise above her circumstances and help her mother, and in the process, she may just discover her own strength.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Grade Level: 7 – 9
Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Young Adult novel has managed to capture the hearts of countless readers. It’s not hard to see why either. Winner of multiple awards, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a story about identity, hope, and finding your place in the universe. The novel follows Aristotle and Dante, two boys who forge an unbreakable friendship over the course of a summer. As their relationship develops, readers are met with a unique examination on the nature of love, family, trauma, and forgiveness. Though not for the faint of heart, Aristotle and Dante is nonetheless a powerful story worth sharing with students.
Red Beans by Victor Hernández Cruz
Grade Level: 9 – 12
Victor Hernández Cruz is Puerto Rican poet known for his lyrical wit and wry humor, and no book exemplifies this quite like Red Beans. Bursting with puns and magical imagery, Cruz effortlessly blends history and art in a truly spectacular fashion. Readers will enjoy his spice of language and might even laugh aloud when they encounter a humorous poem detailing the problem with hurricanes. For older students looking to explore the art of poetry, Red Beans is a sumptuous feast indeed.