Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month (Ages 4-8)

Why I Built This Kit

Curator Monica O.

Curator Monica O.

The Latino community is already the largest minority group in the United States. By 2050, it is expected to make up 29 percent of the population. If you aren’t Hispanic yourself, chances are you have someone in your family or group of friends who is of Latino heritage. Learning about other cultures is critical for raising global citizens. And learning about our own heritage is essential for developing a positive self-image.

I began to teach my children more in earnest once they reached the age where they could begin to identify with their heritage. Exposing them to positive Latino role models who have impacted our American history and culture in a positive manner is my way of showing them that they can be the heroes of their own life stories. We all need role models to inspire us and give us confidence. I hope that through this kit your child will delight in discovering the richness and beauty of the Latino culture.


Talk About It

Latino Parents:

A study by researchers at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, shows that Latino kids who grow up knowledgeable about their culture, and proud of it, are more likely to excel in school, have a strong self-esteem, and develop healthy behaviors. The study reveals that these children develop fewer social problems, and experience less hopelessness, aggression, and substance abuse.

Mentors and role models in every walk of life - the arts, sports, medicine, science - are especially important as they inspire our children to dream big. They motivate our kids to be valuable members of our society and make positive, meaningful contributions that improve our community and planet. Latinos have had a tremendous impact on U.S. history and culture. This kit includes just a sampling of those amazing people who have left their mark on our nation’s history. As you learn about them with your kids, speak with pride so that your children will be empowered to follow their own dreams and be the heroes of their own life stories.


Non-Latino Parents:

Maybe you have a child in a dual immersion school. Or maybe you simply want to give your child better opportunities so that when he or she graduates from college, (s)he’ll have higher-paying career options. Whatever your reason for celebrating Hispanic heritage with your child, I hope that you take time to explore famous Latinos through the excellent Latino children’s literature now available. Nurture your child’s curiosity and creativity with culturally-based crafts and activities. Grab your globe and discover new places. Most of all, have fun.


Books for Discussing This Theme

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My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz by Monica Brown

ISBN: 978-0873588720

This bilingual book is a treat for children with its vibrant illustrations and beautifully written story. Told from Celia’s point of view, the book is rich in imagery and dances its way through the singer’s childhood and into her adult professional life as one of the most recognized musicians in the world. It is a testament to her perseverance, positive attitude, and pursuit of happiness. After reading this book, look for child-friendly videos online (like those listed below) to introduce your child to the singer and the world of salsa music.

As you read this book with your child, discuss:

  • Point out the illustrations as you read and ask your child: How does the artwork show the movement of Celia’s music?

  • How do Celia’s memories of childhood influence her music?

  • Where is Celia from? Can you find her homeland on a map?

 

Activity: Musician Costume

  • Celia Cruz was known for her flamboyant costumes. She often wore brightly colored dresses, hats, and even wigs with big feathers and lots of sequins. Imagine that you are a famous singer and create your own costume! Would you wear sparkly clothes or crazy hats? Don’t forget to make your own microphone.
 

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull

ISBN: 978-0152014377

Learn about Cesar Chavez with this beautifully illustrated book that introduces us to the moments in his life that motivated him to become one of the most recognized civil rights activists of our time. From his childhood experiences as he moved from one school to another to his role as co-founder of the National Farm Workers’ Association, you’ll learn about the man who cared about people and dedicated his life to improving the way we treat workers in this country.

As you read this book with your child, discuss:

  • Why does it matter how we treat others?

  • Do you think a company should be responsible for creating a good work environment for their workers?

  • Talk about the Bill of Rights and how it lists particular things that every person should expect and receive.

 

Activity: Plant Food

  • Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta are the co-founders of the National Farm Workers Association. They were passionate about improving the working conditions for migrant workers, who are people that move from place to place doing seasonal work. Most of them work in the fields harvesting different crops as they ripen. Plant your own garden in this simple activity and imagine what it would be like to plant and harvest entire fields of fruits and vegetables.

You will need:

  • A clean, empty soup can

  • A handful of small rocks

  • A cup of potting soil

  • Some beans

  • Blank paper (or construction paper)

  • Scissors

  • Markers

Instructions:

  1. First, cut out a small rectangle and wrap it around your can like a soup label.
  2. Then decorate it with your markers. You can draw a picture of your plant as it blooms or bears fruit, or draw an entire garden. Use your imagination.
  3. Next, place a small layer of rocks or pebbles in the bottom of your can. This will help with drainage. Add your potting soil, but leave an inch of space at the top.
  4. Plant your bean seeds. Lay them on top of the soil making sure they are not too close together. Cover them with more potting soil, but leave a little space between the top of the soil and then rim of the can.
  5. Place it in a sunny window and water once or twice a week.
  6. In about a week, you should see a seedling emerge from the soil. With regular attention, it will grow into a mature plant and produce beans!
 

Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates by Jonah Winter

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ISBN: 978-1416950820

Latinos have had a powerful presence in the all-American sport of baseball. In addition to being a gifted baseball player, Roberto Clemente was also a humanitarian. The Puerto Rican is best known for his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. This lovely picture book tells you about his childhood and eventual rise to fame, then ends with his death in a tragic plane crash while trying to deliver supplies to aid earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

As you read this book with your child, discuss:

  • What did you think when you read about how Roberto made his own bat from a tree branch, his first glove from a coffee-bean sack, and used empty soup cans for balls?

  • How do you think Roberto felt when the press called him “lazy” or made fun of his Spanish accent?

  • Why do you think Roberto was helping earthquake victims?

  • Do you think that famous and wealthy people should help others who don’t have money or are in need of help?

  • Can you think of any other famous Hispanic athletes? Think about Brazilian soccer legend Pelé and Olympic swimmer Dara Torres.

 

Activity: Peg Doll Baseball

Re-enact your own baseball game! Make two sets of baseball team players out of peg dolls. Be sure to give each team unique uniforms. Then make your own baseball field out of an empty, clean pizza box. You can use green felt for your outfield and tan felt for your baseball diamond, or simply color it all in with markers. Finish it up by gluing on little white triangles for your bases and you’ll be ready to play ball!

 

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

ISBN: 978-1419710544

Age doesn’t matter when it comes to making a difference as you’ll see when you read about Sylvia Mendez and her family. When the school near their farm refuses to enroll their children and instead directs them to a “Mexican school” farther away, the Mendez family fights back. They are determined to give their sons and daughter access to a good education close to home and make good schools available to all children. This book recounts the successful battle to integrate schools in California seven years before the landmark case of Brown vs. the Board of Education.

As you read this book with your child, discuss:

  • How do you think Sylvia felt when she wasn’t allowed to go to the public school, but her fair skinned, auburn hair cousins could? Do you think what a person looks like should make a difference on where they have to go to school?

  • How was the Mexican school different from the public school? Why do you think there wasn’t a playground?

  • Should parents be allowed to enroll their child in the school of their choice?

  • Schools weren’t the only places where Mexicans weren’t allowed to go. What did you think of the sign that said “No dogs or Mexicans allowed - public pool?” Discuss with your child why it is wrong to treat human beings like animals.

 

Activity: Have a Mock Trial

Imagine that you are a lawyer and that you represent the Mendez family and the other four families who joined in the lawsuit. Re-enact your own trial and write out your defense as to why you think that it is unlawful and unfair to deny any child access to a public school. Appoint a judge (maybe a parent or grandparent), and state your case to him or her.

 

The Storyteller’s Candle by Lucía González

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ISBN: 978-0892392223

This beautifully illustrated book shares the story of Pura Belpré, New York’s first Latina librarian. Told from the perspective of two young children recently arrived from Puerto Rico, this book shows the influence Belpré had on helping immigrants not only learn to use the public library system, but to find a place to connect with and support each other.

As you read this book with your child, discuss:

  • How do you think Hildamar and Santiago feel about living in New York? Do you think New York is different or similar to Puerto Rico?

  • Why do you think Titi María didn’t want to go into the library? Was she right that no one inside spoke Spanish? Do you think immigrants today feel the same way?

  • How did Pura Belpré get the Latino community to come to the library? Do you think libraries today are different? Should they be a place where people from different backgrounds can come together?

  • If you were a librarian, what would you do to engage the people in your community?

 

Activity: Make Your Own Puppets

Pura Belpré was a master storyteller and one of the tools she used to help her tell stories was her set of puppets. Imagine that you are a puppeteer and make your own puppets from old socks, buttons, and scraps of felt or fabric. Maybe you can turn an old box into a stage and have your own puppet show! If you don’t have a box handy, use a table with a long tablecloth to hide you.


Suggested Media (Videos & Apps)

Nick Jr. Hispanic Heritage Month Role Models

Nick Jr. has a small series of short videos for children highlighting some Hispanic role models. They are cleverly done and some of my absolute favorite videos! You’ll learn about Olympic swimmer Dara Torres, astronaut Ellen Ochoa, musician Tito Puente, and scientist Narcis Monturiol. If your child has a video camera, encourage him or her to illustrate their own short story and create a video biography.


Celia Cruz Sings Sun Sun Babae on Sesame Street

Celia Cruz made several appearances on Sesame Street and introduced children across the country to her beloved salsa music. Watch this video together with your child and encourage him or her to get up and dance and even sing along.

 

Frida’s World

Ages 5-8

Available for iOS

This bilingual, interactive storybook is perfect for introducing your son or daughter to the famous Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo. The app does a remarkable job of portraying Frida in a child-friendly manner. It does not delve too deeply into Frida’s colorful and sometimes controversial personal life, but instead celebrates her artwork and individuality. After reading this app, encourage your child to get creative and explore different media for self-expression. In Frida fashion, have your child work on a self-portrait using charcoal pencils or paint.


Other Activities That Celebrate Hispanic Heritage

Source: Pearmama.com

Source: Pearmama.com

  • In addition to their awesome video series, Nick Jr. also has a set of Hispanic Heroes printables with coloring pages and trading cards. It would be fun to print up the different card sets with another family and then get your children together to trade cards!

  • Are you into peg dolls? Pearmama.com has an inspiring collection of “Latina Heroes” peg dolls she created in honor of Women’s History Month this year. Take a look for inspiration and then create your own!

  • If you have read about Frida Kahlo, then you may have learned that the artists had a lot of health problems because of a bus accident she was in as a young woman. Pearmama also has a free Frida Kahlo Body Cast printable that you can download and decorate.


Suggested Online Family Experiences

Museums, cultural centers, and theaters frequently offer exhibits and events that display art, music, and historical moments unique to Latino communities. Check out these virtual exhibits and interactive websites to learn more about Latino influence in the U.S.


About Monica O.

Monica is a homeschooling mother of two and a freelance education writer. Her blog, MommyMaestra.com, is a resource for other homeschooling families or Latino parents with children in a traditional school who simply want to take a more active role in their children’s education. Monica is also the co-founder of Latinas for Latino Lit and one of the creators of the L4LL Latino Children’s Summer Reading Program. She is a regular contributor to NBCNews.com, and her work can be found on PBS Parents’ Adventures in Learning, LatinaMom.me, and Plaza Familia.

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