I am Latina, but I live in a predominantly white neighborhood, in a predominantly white city, in the middle of white America. My husband is white, nearly all the friends I’ve made in town are white, and 99% of my son’s school is white. My son is half-white, but he’s also half-Latino and I want him to know this, understand this, and feel this within himself. I want him to grow up proud of his Latinx heritage, to speak Spanish and enjoy arroz y frijoles and large family gatherings as much as he enjoys chicken tenders and Nascar races with his dad. One way I’m hoping to help him with this is through books. My kiddo loves books and I know that there are many books out there these days that aim to help kids like mine embrace their Latinidad. For the other madres out there trying to ensure they pass on la cultura, check these books out:
La Cucarachita Martina retold by Hector Cuenca
I remember this story from my own childhood and it’s still going strong today. This classic folktale is told throughout Latin America about a little cockroach woman named Martina who is approached by numerous suiters to become her husband. When she finally does pick one though, things get complicated. If my son is going to understand his heritage, I know I’ve got to show him about our colorful folklore.
Niño Wrestles The World by Yuyi Morales
This Spanglish storybook tells the story of a little boy (the niño) who happens to enjoy wrestling all kinds of things. And he’s pretty good at it, too, except for when he has to come face to face with his little twin sisters. This is a light-hearted read that will introduce my son to lucha libre (Mexican wrestling, essentially) and teach him about family, too.
Green is a Chile Pepper by Roseanne Greenfield Thong
This vivid kid’s book teachers youngsters about colors in relation to items you might find in a Latinx household. Things like masa and salsa and the swirling skirts worn for folkloric dance are all featured in this engaging story. Thong also wrote Round Is A Tortilla: A Book of Shapes, which takes the same approach and uses Latinx-oriented items to teach young minds about various shapes.
The Life Of Selena by Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein
This adorable children’s board book honors the life of one of Latin America’s most revered singers: Selena Quintanilla. Every Latina mom today remembers listening to the music of the Mexican musical star in the 90s, and this bilingual book teaches children not only about her life, but also expands their Spanish vocabulary with short, easy-to-read sentences and brightly colored illustrations. Rodriguez and Stein have also written other must-haves for your kiddo’s collection, like Contando Con Frida and Alrededor Del Mundo Con Cantinflas.
La Noche Buena by Antonio Sacre and Angela Dominguez
Noche Buena is one of the most important holidays (if not the most) in any Latinx family. This book (for slightly older kids) is about a young Cuban girl visiting her abuelita in Miami for, you guessed it, Noche Buena. This speaks personally to me as a Latina who grew up in South Florida, but overall the connections to the importance of familia on this special night can be felt by all Latinx moms and kids.