Many of us Latina moms raising kids in the states often struggle with finding ways to keep the culture alive for our children who are mostly immersed in American society and inevitably relate more to that part of them. To be honest, many of us who were raised in the U.S. ourselves sometimes have trouble connecting with the cultures of our ancestors, but it is so, so important for us to make sure that we pass on the traditions and stories that have shaped our people for generations.
One way to do that is by using Latin American literature and books by Latinx authors to introduce and reinforce some of the things about our history and culture that we want our kids to know about and appreciate. Books are an invaluable resource in so many ways. Not only do they offer kids a different perspective, but when we read books to our children that feature characters that look like them, it makes them feel seen. To help get you started here are some of the most beloved Latin American and Latinx children’s books we know of:
The Golden Flower by Nina Jaffe
The Golden Flower is the retelling of a Taino folktale out of Puerto Rico. It’s a creation story about how the island of Boriken first came to be and between the way it honors the Indigenous culture and its gorgeous illustrations, we can’t help but swoon. It’s absolutely certain to entrance kids of all ages as well as help them learn more about their deep ancestral roots.
Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto
Too Many Tamales is an adorable Christmas Eve tale is about a little girl and her cousins who are helping prepare the holiday tamales when they accidentally lose a family treasure. A hilarious debacle ensues when she and her primos set about trying to find the lost item somewhere in their family’s giant batch of tamales.
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
Last Stop on Market Street is a modern classic about a young boy who treks through the city via public bus with his grandmother after church every Sunday. The illustrations truly convey the life of the city, but even more importantly is the message of gratitude, kindness and community that the book promotes as the little boy is comforted and encouraged by his grandmother.
El Flamboyan Amarillo by
You may have to brush up on your Spanish to read this one (or recruit los abuelos for help), but El Flamboyan Amarillo is an absolutely beautiful tribute to the Caribbean and Puerto Rico in particular, that will absolutely melt the hearts of readers. It’s the tale of a young boy who picks a seed from a flamboyan tree while on a walk with his mother and plants it at home. He watches it grow throughout the years all the while learning an important lesson from the process.
¡Pío Peep!: Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes
¡Pío Peep! is an adorable bilingual collection of classic Latin American nursery rhymes is a must-have for toddlers and preschoolers and a wonderful asset for moms hoping to introduce their little ones to the Spanish language. It should be on every kid’s book shelf right next to the requisite copy of Mother Goose, maybe even above it.
How Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay by Julia Alvarez
Author Julia Alvarez will always have our hearts and now she can capture the hearts of our children as well. How Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay is the story of a boy who is transplanted to Vermont after his parents’ divorce and meets his mami’s quirky, offbeat Tia Lola who comes to help her get back on her feet after the move, and ends up making Miguel’s life a lot more interesting.
Juan Bobo retold by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand
If you grew up in a Puerto Rican household, you’ve probably read at least one Juan Bobo tale. These classic stories are folk tales about a boy named Juan Bobo who lives in the countryside in Puerto Rico. He loves to play but has to work. However, with a bit of creativity and ingenuity he manages to turn even the most mundane and laborious task into something fun.
Grandma’s Chocolate by Mara Price
Grandma’s Chocolate is a heartwarming story is told in both English and Spanish, making it a wonderful way to teach kids some Spanish. It’s about a little girl whose grandma comes to visit from Mexico and brings a suitcase full of treasures. In it, the child discovers reminders of her Mayan roots and some delicious Mexican chocolate. As she unpacks all of the wonderful gifts she and her grandmother bond while she learns more about her heritage.
Round is a Tortilla by Roseanne Thong
Round is a Tortilla is an adorable book of shapes designed to help young children recognize different shapes in ordinary objects they see every day. The twist though is that in this book, most of the shapes are found objects that have Latino roots like round tortillas, triangular quesadillas and rectangles in the paleta stand. There’s even a glossary in the back that offers definitions for all of the Spanish terms in the book.
Islandborn by Junot Díaz
Islandborn is a touching picture book by acclaimed author Junot Díaz about a young girl who despite being born in the Dominican Republic doesn’t remember anything about the island. To complete a school project she turns to her family and neighbors in her New York City neighborhood to help fill in the gaps, which allows her to create an inspiring picture of her “first home.” The book offers a powerful message about the strength of cultural roots and even offers up a bit of a history lesson.