While cultural diversity is something we should celebrate year-round, this month is an excellent opportunity for you and your students to honor the history, culture, and contributions of Americans with heritage rooted in Mexico, Spain, the Caribbean, and South and Central America.
To help you celebrate in the classroom, we’ve gathered some great titles from Latinx authors. Whether you’re reading as a class, or making recommendations for your middle and high school students, these Latin voices will help your students develop a new appreciation for Hispanic history and culture.
Books for Early Elementary (Grades K-2)
Alma and How She Got Her Name — Juana Martinez-Neal
If you ask her, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has way too many names. How did such a small person wind up with such a large name? Alma turns to her father and as she hears the story of her name, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all.
Palatero Man — Lucky Diaz
What’s the best way to cool off on a hot summer day? Run quick! And find Paletero José!
Ring! Ring! Ring!
Can you hear his call?
Paletas for one! Paletas for all!
Pepe and the Parade — Tracey Kyle, Mirelle Ortega
Join Pepe as he celebrates his Mexican-American heritage by participating in a Hispanic Day parade. With Spanish words effortlessly included throughout, this title is a great introduction to the Spanish language.
Abuela — Arthur Dorros
Flying around Manhattan Island, somersaulting in midair, resting in the sky on a chair-shaped cloud… Rosalba and her grandmother, her abuela, are having an extraordinary adventure. How do they manage this exhilarating travel that started in the park? The story is narrated in English and sprinkled with Spanish phrases.
Books for Elementary (Grades 3-6)
Golden Tales — Lulu Delacre
These 12 tales are a collection of legends, myths and folktales from 4 native Latin American cultures, spanning 13 different countries. Complete with vibrant illustrations, these tales bring the culture, literature, oral traditions, and the history of Latin America to life for young readers.
Esperanza Rising — Pam Muñoz Ryan
Esperanza thought she’d always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico – she’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces.
Lucky Luna — Diana López
Luna Ramos has more cousins than she can count, and even though her mom says that makes her lucky, Luna knows that every time she gets in trouble (and she gets in trouble a lot), one of her primas is responsible. But when mischievous Luna locks her know-it-all cousin Claudia in the bathroom at her cousin’s quinceañera, Luna has no one to blame but herself. Her punishment? She’s not allowed to wear hats for a whole month, which is a big deal because Luna’s always been embarrassed by her hair, and hats make her feel more comfortable.
Books for Middle School (Grades 6-9)
Storm Runner — J. C. Cervantes
A lonely boy in New Mexico has a physical disability that makes middle school feel even more like everyone is watching him. But as he soon learns, his physical differences are merely the first clue to a family history that connects him to the Maya gods—and puts him in mortal danger. A great read for fans of the Percy Jackson series!
The First Rule of Punk — Cecilia C. Peréz
There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school–you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malú (Maria Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.
Efrén Divided — Ernesto Cisneros
Efrén Nava’s Amá is his Superwoman – or Soperwoman, named after the delicious Mexican sopes his mother often prepares. Both Amá and Apá work hard all day to provide for the family, making sure Efrén and his younger siblings Max and Mía feel safe and loved. But Efrén worries about his parents; although he’s American-born, his parents are undocumented. His worst nightmare comes true one day when Amá doesn’t return from work and is deported across the border to Tijuana, México.
Now more than ever, Efrén must channel his inner Soperboy to help take care of and try to reunite his family.
Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna — Alda P. Dobbs
It is 1913, and twelve-year-old Petra Luna’s mama has died while the Revolution rages in Mexico. Before her papa is dragged away by soldiers, Petra vows to him that she will care for the family she has left―her abuelita, little sister Amelia, and baby brother Luisito―until they can be reunited. Through battlefields and deserts, hunger and fear, Petra will stop at nothing to keep her family safe and lead them to a better life across the U.S. border―a life where her barefoot dreams could finally become reality.
The Other Half of Happy — Rebecca Balcárcel
Poet Rebecca Balcárcel’s novel about a biracial girl who’s navigating between the Anglo and Guatemalan sides of her family, a burgeoning crush and a cool new friend, and trying to figure out what’s going on with her little brother, who is becoming remote and hard to reach, all while trying to determine just who she is.
Books for High School (Grades 9-12)
90 Miles to Havana — Enrique Flores-Galbis
When Julian’s parents make the heartbreaking decision to send him and his two brothers away from Cuba to Miami via the Pedro Pan Operation, the boys are thrust into a new world where bullies run rampant and it’s not always clear how to best protect themselves.
Clap When You Land — Elizabeth Acevedo
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people. In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
Cemetery Boys — Aiden Thomas
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves.
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents — Julia Alvarez
Uprooted from their family home in the Dominican Republic, the four Garcia sisters – Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia – arrive in New York City in 1960 to find a life far different from the genteel existence of maids, manicures, and extended family they left behind. What they have lost – and what they find – is revealed in the fifteen interconnected stories that make up this exquisite novel from one of the premier novelists of our time.