It’s always magical to see children learning from a young age to appreciate and celebrate their heritage as well as the diverse heritage of others. I’m one of those people who loves the word diverse, y mas en español, diverso, porque todo suena mejor en español. I can’t help but mention here that I recently had a conversation with a man who shuddered as I described my high school alma mater as diverse. He claimed that “diverse” is a word that democrats have stolen and made dirty… don’t get me started on that. So I just want to say it again: (Dear Sir) I LOVE THE WORD “DIVERSE”!
Anyway, I thankfully come from a fairly diverse pocket of the world, I’m the product of a mixed Nicaraguan-Danish-American marriage, I’m in a mixed marriage myself, and we’re raising our kids in a diverse city. But I will admit, that while I embrace diversity, I also quite naturally know my own cultural heritage the best.
I’d love to expand this list of bilingual and latino books to a list of multicultural books, but I can’t pretend to know what books represent fair depictions of other religious holidays, so I need some help!
Hoping I can get some good recommendations from others and eventually expand this list (feel free to leave me a comment and recommendation), but for now I give you my top 5 bilingual latino books about Christmas, great for children of latino heritage or children just wanting to be diverse in their reading (ok at this point, it’s really us parents and teachers who want them to be, but they’ll thank us later.) ¡Feliz lectura!
*Titles have links for easy shopping!
‘Twas Nochebuena by Roseann Greenfield Thong (Ages 3-5)
It basically reads as Spanglish, which for a child learning Spanish as a second language, heritage language, or simply being exposed to Spanish, this is a really fun read and rhymes so perfectly! Children will grasp the meaning of the Spanish words through context clues. At first read, it seemed a little long for my three under three, but as long as I am an enthusiastic reader, my two-year old eats it up. And he is definitely picking up on the Spanish words and customs, which makes this bilingual and multicultural momma proud!
N is for Navidad by Susan Middleton Elya, Merry Banks, Joe Cepeda (Ages 3-6)
Children will enjoy learning the words and customs included in this fun, rhyming, and vividly illustrated book that takes us from angel to zapatos and numerous latino customs associated with navidad. It’s another great read for celebrating latino culture and the Spanish language around this time of year.
A Piñata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas by Pat Mora (Ages 4-7)
Ask me, Pat Mora is sort of the queen of stories that flow between English and Spanish in a Spanglish style. If you are not a strong Spanish speaker, I recommend pre-reading to get the lyrics to fit the tune/rhythm correctly, but the great news it that the phonetic pronunciations for Spanish words are weaved into the illustrations! As a Spanish speaker, I don’t know why Mora uses “and” rather than “y” in her list of gifts received over the 12 days of Christmas. I always read it with “y” because it just flows off my tongue that way.
When Christmas Feels Like Home by Gretchen Griffith (Ages 6-9)
Eduardo is a young boy who has just moved from a Mexican village to the United States. His parents promise him that he will settle in with some time, by Christmas time, in fact. Children will enjoy the exposure to Eduardo’s native culture, language, and customs, but also understand him on a different level, because all children at some time feel out of place, whether they are in a new school, new classroom, new neighborhood, or just a new place for the first time. I love the illustrations and the Spanish words sprinkled throughout, but I think I’ll have to wait to read this heartwarming story with my toddler until he can fully appreciate it.
The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie DePaola (Ages 5-10)
Exactly the story and illustrations you would expect from DePaola. He honors the culture that he informs readers about in this lovely story about the Hispanic custom of Las Posadas. To be honest, I don’t think this can be a one and done read though. Unless readers are already familiar with Las Posadas, they may not be able to fully appreciate the story and custom, so either give a little background info before reading or use the book as a start to learn more about the Las Posadas custom.
In my search for holiday books with bilingual/latino flair, I found so many that are better suited for older audiences: Growing up with Tamales by Gwendolyn Zepeda and La Noche Buena: A Christmas Story by Antonio Sacre to name a few. I found these books too long and too serious for my little ones, but they would be great for elementary age children. It’s always important to note that these books don’t depict the way all latinos celebrate, but they expose children to different cultures and languages which I’m all for!
And maybe they can start the conversation about our beautiful similarities and differences, in a way that teaches children to embrace rather than divide. (I am an eternal optimist, y’all!)
For other great books and info, check out:
PHOTO: REUTERS Juan Pablo II square in Managua, sweet Nicaragua, featured in The Express Tribune Photos of the Day, December 5, 2017.