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Finding Hispanic Characters in Children's Books

by Miriam Downey 5. April 2013 11:28

A recent article in the New York Times discusses the lack of Hispanic characters in books for children. Nearly one-fourth of all the children in the United States are Hispanic, yet very few of the characters in children's books are Hispanic. The article states: "Kids do have a different kind of connection when they see a character that looks like them or they experience a plot or a theme that relates to something they've experienced in their lives."

The article goes on to say that Hispanic children are not the only ones who have trouble finding books that have characters they can identify with. Additionally, the article notes that reading and language progresses faster when children can see themselves in the books they read. Publishers are scrambling to create books with Hispanic characters, and there are several new series of easy readers with Hispanic characters. Needless to say, it is also important that books with great characters, black, white, Hispanic, or Asian, be available to all children. Empathy comes from reading.

Gary Soto, Pat Mora, Arthur Dorros, Sandra Cisneros, and Pam Munoz Ryan are authors to look for when you seek books about Hispanic children of all nationalities.

In this post, I have included picture books, easy readers, and chapter books with Hispanic characters. They will all be available at your local library or bookstore. If you have suggestions for other books with Hispanic characters, please include them in the comment section.


 Picture Books

Tomas and the Library Lady by Pat Mora (Grades K-2). Tomas and his migrant worker family find the local library.

Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto (Grades K-3). The children are making tamales for Christmas dinner and suddenly mother's diamond ring is missing.

What Can You Do with a Rebozo? by Carmen Tafolla (Grades 1-3) Children show what they can do with a rebozo, a traditional Mexican shawl.

Papa and Me by Arthur Dorros (Grades K-2). The warm relationship between father and son.

Fiesta U.S.A. by George Ancona (Grades K-3). The photographer focuses on four holidays celebrated by Hispanics in the United States.

Hairs by Sandra Cisneros (Grades K-3). all the different hair styles in the family.

Abuela by Arthur Dorros (Grades K-3). First in a series of wonderfully imaginatively books about Grandmother.

Easy Readers

My Name Is Maria Isabel by Alma Flor Ada (Grades 2-3). Maria has trouble on the first day in the new school when her teacher wants to change her name.

Tia Lola Stories by Julia Alvarez (Grades 2-3). Tia Lola comes to visit her Dominican family who have just moved to Vermont.

No English by Jacqueline Jules (Grades 2-3). Blanca is the new girl in school and knows no English. She feels lost and afraid.

Under the Mambo Moon by Julia Durango (Grades 3-4). A story told in Latin musical styles and dance.

Zapata Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off by Jacqueline Jules (Grades 1-3). The first of a delightful easy reader series about Freddie at school.

Chapter Books

Mercy on These Teenage Chimps by Gary Soto (Grades 4-6) Very funny book about boys approaching adolescence.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munez Ryan (Grades 6-9). Esperanza immigrates to California during the Great Depression.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (Grades 7-12). This book is a classic. The story of a Mexican girl growing up in Chicago.

How the Garcia girls Lost their Accents by Julia Alvarez (Grades 9-12). Four Dominican sisters arrive with their parents in New York city and learn to adjust to life in America.

Breaking Through by Francisco Jimenez (Grades 6-9). Francisco fights to move out of the fields as a migrant worker and complete his education.

Red Midnight by Ben Mikaelsen Grades 5-9). Teenage Santiago and his four-year-old sister escape from the civil war in Guatemala in a small boat to get to the United States.


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