By Katharine Strange
Positive counter-narratives are important. Children form ideas about groups of people based on personal relationships and media exposure. If the only Hispanic character your kids know is Ramon from Cars, (guilty) they are going to develop implicit bias and stereotypes about Hispanic peoples.
Hispanic Heritage month (Sept 15-Oct 15) is a great time to read, learn, and discuss Hispanic and Latinx peoples and culture with your kids.
(Quick Explainer: “Hispanic” refers to groups of people who have Spanish-speaking ancestry, “Latina”/”Latino”/”Latinx” refers to anyone of Latin American ancestry--i.e. Brazilians are Latinx but not Hispanic. Hispanic or Latinx are sometimes used interchangeably as a way of explaining ethnicity, not race. Latinx people can be Black, White, Brown, etc.)
Seattle Public Library has shared this fantastic list to aid you in your quest for great counter-narratives. It’s as easy as clicking “hold” and picking up the book at your preferred branch. Omaha Public Library has an even longer list. Google and Amazon can help, too, just type in “Hispanic heritage picture books” or “Hispanic heritage YA.” BONUS: Many of these books also come in Spanish language versions.
Here are some of Kids and Race’s favorites.
For Younger Kids:
Sing, Don’t Cry by Angela Dominguez
In this touching story, Abuelo encourages his grandchildren to sing because “singing gladdens the heart.” He also shows them how loss opens the door for new opportunities. Recommended for preschool-2nd grade.
Starring Carmen! by Anika Denise & Lorena Alvarez Gomez
A picture book featuring a biracial Hispanic family doing normal things. Carmen wants to perform for her exhausted parents each night, they want her to share the stage with her brother, Eduardo. Recommended for ages 3-7. Check out additional Carmen stories, too.
For Older Kids:
Harvesting Hope: The Story of César Chávez by Kathleen Krull & Yuyi Morales
This book deftly tells the story of Chicano labor leader, César Chávez, and how his actions impacted not only in his own Californian community, but all of America. Biographies are great ways to provide positive counter-narratives for kids, and books like this provide positive role models for Hispanic and Latinx kids particularly. Recommended for ages 8-12.
Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish by Pablo Cartaya
This poignant middle grade book tells the story of Marcus, a Puerto Rican boy growing up in Pennsylvania. It touches on themes of identity, bilingualism, and family. After Marcus gets in trouble at school, his mother takes him and his brother to Puerto Rico for the first time. There, Marcus searches for his absent father and learns how beautiful Puerto Rico is. Recommended for grades 4-7.