Bilingual is Better

The topic of reading in Spanish to our kids is always a loved one. Today’s Ask an Expert is an excellent resource for parents with elementary-age children that need advice finding suitable books for them.  The question was sent by Lizette.

“My son is in a Spanish dual immersion school. He is in 4th grade and we need more of a variety of Spanish books starting at that grade level. Any suggestions?”

Hi Lizette,

How fantastic that your son is in a dual-language immersion school. We need more of those in the U.S.! There are many wonderful books and resources in Spanish that are available online and through specialty catalogues.

  • America Reads Spanish- On this site you can download a free pdf version of the excellent guide entitled: The Essential Guide to Spanish Reading for Children and Young Adults. This book contains annotated bibliographies for books recommended by teachers and librariarians. Unfortunately, the titles are organized alphabetically, but you can search the pdf by age/grade level. You can also download The Essential Guide to Spanish Reading which has a listing of librarian’s 500 Top Picks for a core Spanish collection (this volume might be helpful to share with your son’s school librarian).
  • Santillana USA- This publisher is another excellent resource for books – especially for dual language programs. Some of the recommendations for upper elementary school include:
  • Brocha y Pincel: Libraries offer a compilation of award-winning author Alma Flor Ada’s best-selling books in English & Spanish. Libraries include audio CDs with author readings and authentic music.
  • Colección Animales de las Amércias: Books in this dual-language series offer students a nonfiction article and an entertaining fictional story about an endangered animal of the Western Hemisphere.
  • Stories to Celebrate Dual-language Kit: Fiction/Nonfiction dual language kit for young readers. This collection develops respect and an appreciation for differences, traditions, and culture. Fiction and nonfiction selections help familiarize students with narrative and expository texts.
  • Children’s Book Press-This is one of my all-time favorite publishers of multicultural and bilingual literature for children (and they’re nonprofit, too!) They have fantastic books in Spanish and English.

My favorite bilingual titles include:

•    Friends from the Other Side/Amigos del otro lado (Written by Gloria Anzaldúa, Illustrated by Consuelo Méndez): Prietita befriends a boy who has crossed the border with his mother to find a new life. But what will she do when the border patrol cruises by?

•    A Movie in My Pillow/Una película en mi almohada (Written by Jorge Argueta, Illustrated by Elizabeth Gómez): This groundbreaking book addresses immigration during the Salvadoran civil war from a child’s perspective. A poet recalls childhood memories of life in his homeland and in his new home, San Francisco.

•    My Diary From Here to There/Mi diario de aquí hasta allá (Written by Amada Irma Pérez, Illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez): Amada’s family moves from Mexico to California, where greater opportunity awaits. As she and her family travel north, Amada keeps a diary of her hopes, fears, and dreams.

•    My Very Own Room/Mi propio cuartito (Written by Amada Irma Pérez, Illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez): Five little brothers, two parents, and a house full of visiting relatives make Amada feel crowded. She loves her family, but how can she get a little space of her own?

•    Super Cilantro Girl/La Superniña del Cilantro (Written by Juan Felipe Herrera, Illustrations by Honorio Robledo Tapia): What happens when a small girl suddenly starts turning green, as green as a cilantro leaf, and grows to be fifty feet tall? She becomes Super Cilantro Girl, and can overcome all obstacles, thats what!

•    The Woman Who Outshone the Sun/La mujer que brillaba aún más que el sol (Written by Rosalma Zubizarreta, Harriet Rohmer, David Schecter, From a poem by Alejandro Cruz Martinez, Illustrated by Fernando Olivera): There’s something different about Lucia, so the villagers treat her cruelly and force her to leave town. When the river follows her, the villagers realize their mistake.

I hope this helps, Lizette. There are so many excellent books out there… Kudos to you for supporting your son in his language learning! Happy reading!

What are some of your kids’ favorite bilingual books?

Lori Langer de Ramirez.- -Bilingual educator who began her career as a teacher of Spanish, French and ESL. She holds a Master’s Degree in Applied Linguistics and a Doctorate in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University. She is currently the Chairperson of the ESL and World Language Department for Herricks Public Schools, New York. Lori is the author of Take Action: Lesson Plans for the Multicultural Classroom and Voices of Diversity: Stories, Activities and Resources for the Multicultural Classroom, as well as several Spanish-language books and texts. Her interactive website (miscositas.com) offers teachers over 40 virtual picture books and other curricular materials for teaching Chinese, English, French, Indonesian, Italian, Spanish and Thai. Her areas of research and curriculum development are multicultural and diversity education, folktales in the language classroom and technology in language teaching. You can read her answers here and submit your own question for any of our experts here.

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