Martí’s Song for Freedom/ Martí y sus versos por la libertad is a new bilingual picture book from Lee & Low Books about Cuban poet and hero José Martí. The biography is recommended for ages 7-12 and is an excellent introduction to Cuban history for kids.
With beautiful illustrations, this biography recounts Martí’s awareness of the injustice of slavery and his desire for Cuban independence from Spain. Certainly, Martí’s passion for freedom and equality will speak to young readers. In addition, the book is an inspiring story of the power of language, as readers learn how Martí used speeches, articles and poetry to fight injustice.
In addition to providing a window to Cuban history for kids, Martí’s Song for Freedom/ Martí y sus versos por la libertad introduces readers to Martí’s poetry. The story weaves selected stanzas of Versos Sencillos into the text. Through Martí’s poetry, readers see the beauty of Cuba and feel Martí’s love for humanity.
This bilingual edition is an excellent choice for language learners. Some of the language will be difficult, but the layout makes it easy to associate the Spanish and English. Given the rich historical and cultural content, it is ideal to have the support of a bilingual edition so learners at all levels can enjoy the book.
Teachers and parents will want to talk about Martí with young readers. Discussing the book, you will increase understanding and language learning. Below are two reading activities based on Martí’s life and Martí’s Song for Freedom/ Martí y sus versos por la libertad.
Cuban History for Kids: José Martí Matching Activity
This reading activity reinforces basic vocabulary and content related to Martí’s life. The information is found in the bilingual story Martí’s Song for Freedom/ Martí y sus versos por la libertad. The activity uses high-frequency vocabulary and cognates.
Cuban History for Kids: José Martí Sequencing
This reading activity involves sequencing events in Martí’s life. It reinforces vocabulary and content in Martí’s Song for Freedom/ Martí y sus versos por la libertad.
Like the matching activity above, it uses high-frequency vocabulary and cognates. You can use the activity with Spanish learners, even if they have read the English text in the book. Making the book available as a resource as students is an effective way to engage learners with the Spanish text.
I like to cut the sentences apart so students can move them around and order them. Of course, you can also have students number the sentences 1-8.
Cuban History for Kids: Guantanamera
The popular song Guantanamera is based on 4 stanzas of Martí’s Versos Sencillos. It is fun to share as a part of Cuban history for kids. Many artists have recorded the song, including Celia Cruz. I like this version by Playing For Change, sung by 75 Cuban musicians around the world.
Finally, Cuban history for kids, like all history, should come in age-appropriate pieces. The story of poet José Martí is the perfect place to begin to learn about the beautiful island of Cuba.