From birth, children look to adults for cues about how to process the world around them: Our behavior towards others, and similarly, our reactions. It’s these moments that provide the context for their social decisions in school and in life.
September is Hispanic Heritage Month. We’ve selected books that explore diversity in an age-appropriate way, and can serve as a wonderful tool and conversation starter.
by Alma Flor Ada, illustrated by Elivia Savadier (Atheneum $7.99) Age 3-8
In a sweet story with a soft underlying social message, we meet a bilingual girl who spends weekends with her grandparents.
On Saturday, she goes to Grandma and Grandpa’s, where the day begins with scrambled eggs and fluffy pancakes. The next day (domingo), she enjoys zesty huevos rancheros with her Abuelita and Abuelito. Various adventures show how each side of the family shares their own cultural traditions, beautifully expressing how straddling two cultures-and two languages-is an enriching experience for children.
Employing warm-toned watercolors and a liberal smattering of Spanish, the book mirrors the reality of the narrator’s life: a joyous, multicultural love fest. And when the two sets of grandparents collaborate on the perfect birthday gift, it gently reinforces the universality of familial love.
by Michael Hall (Greenwillow $17.99) Age 4-8
Welcome to the world of crayons, where Yellow colors lemons, Green fills in grassy lawns, and Red is expected to brighten fire engines. But Red knows something isn’t right, because when he tries to copy strawberries drawn by Scarlet, they look downright Blue!
Red is wearing the wrong label, and struggles mightily to express his true identity. Adults might immediately see a parable about being differently abled, while children are inclined to connect to the simple appeal of the story. When our crayon friend is asked to fill in the ocean, he rejoices to discover he’s been Blue all along; his relief is touching, and his confidence inspiring.
Discussing identity issues may sound too complicated-and adult-when thinking of our preschoolers; but a careful introduction to concepts like identity, labeling, and feelings of “otherness” can provide the foundation to develop tolerance and empathy for anyone society deems “different.”
by Roseanne Greenfield Thong, illustrated by John Parra (Chronicle $7.99) Age 2-7
Sporting vivid illustrations and a strong Latino theme, this book invites children to see, count, and find the objects that shape our world. Rectangles are ice-cream carts, triangles are quesadillas and wedges of sandia (watermelon), and ovals are huevos (eggs).
Kids will simultaneously learn new words in English and Spanish and drink-in a festive taste of Hispanic cultural traditions. The lilting cadence of the book is well-suited for self-reading by older children, or parental read-alongs with toddlers. The book concludes with a glossary of Spanish terms.