Latino picture books play an important role in sharing language and culture with children. A story can convey the strength of family ties and traditions. It also creates a rich context for understanding new words.
These Latino picture books connect to various Spanish-speaking countries and speak to important aspects of culture. In addition, the protagonists are wonderful characters – brave, creative and clever. Children will identify with them and the challenges they face. They will also recognize the love and support of family that is central to each story.
Favorite Latino Picture Books
Maya’s Blanket / La Manta de Maya by Monica Brown
In this bilingual, cumulative story, Maya loves the blanket that her grandmother made for her when she was a baby. As it begins to wear out, Maya and her grandmother make it into a dress, later a skirt, later a shawl, and so on. It is a book rich with culture and love, and with a very satisfying ending. This is one of my all time favorite Latino picture books, and my students ask to take it home all the time!
Maya’s Blanket / La Manta de Maya is available on Amazon.
Finding the Music / En Pos de la Música by Jennifer Torres
In this bilingual story, Reyna accidentally breaks a musical instrument, the Mexican vihuela that belonged to her grandfather. As Reyna tries to find someone in the neighborhood to fix it, she hears stories of her abuelito. With those memories and the support of her community, Reyna learns about her family and finds a way to put things right.
Marisol McDonald Series by Monica Brown
Marisol McDonald is the protagonist of three wonderful bilingual Latino picture books. Children adore her as she reassures them that they can make their own choices and be who they want to be.
Marisol is bilingual and multicultural, and she is ready to take on today’s world. Marisol McDonald draws from different cultures, languages and interests to create the world she wants to live in. She is unique, but not alone; her free spirit and individuality are treasured by her family, friends and teacher. These are undoubtedly some of my students favorite Latino picture books!
Rainbow Weaver/ Tejedora del arcoiris by Linda Elovitz Marshall
Rainbow Weaver / Tejedora del arcoíris is the bilingual story of Ixchel, a Mayan girl in Guatemala. Ixchel wants to weave, but her mother says no – there is no thread to waste and the weaving must pay for her school books. Ixchel tries weaving with other materials and discovers that the plastic bags that litter her village can be woven into colorful fabric.
Publisher Lee & Low Books has an excellent teacher’s guide for Rainbow Weaver / Tejedora del arcoíris. Many of the comprehension activities and interdisciplinary activities are appropriate for Spanish learners. Whether you are reading the book in English, Spanish or both, be sure to take advantage of this excellent resource: Teacher’s Guide for Rainbow Weaver / Tejedora del arcoíris
Rafi and Rosi Books by Lulu Delacre
These Spanish early reader books feature two Puerto Rican tree frogs, Rafi and his sister, Rosi. Yes, they are frogs, but they are wonderful characters and their relationship is warm and representative of the love that fills Puerto Rican homes. Together they explore their surroundings and learn about the traditions, plants, animals, and environment of the island. The books are also available in English. The English editions integrate a few Spanish words related to the setting and culture and include a glossary of the words.
Although technically not Latino picture books, I include them here because they are good read alouds. They are also perfect for strengthening reading skills in Spanish. Read more about the Rafi and Rosi books and find printable reading comprehension exercises here.
Sparkle Boy by Lesléa Newman
This wonderful new English language book features a Latino family. Casey is a little boy who loves sparkly, shiny things. Sparkle Boy speaks to the freedom to be yourself, as well as the importance of acceptance and support from family. It is a book about family and sibling love that all children should read.
Martí’s Song for Freedom / Martí y sus versos por la libertad by Emma Otheguy
Lee & Low Books published this bilingual book this summer, but I’m including it because it is about the Cuban poet and freedom fighter José Martí and the history of Cuba. I have no doubt this moving story will become a favorite of many students. Written in verse, the text weaves in Martí’s poetry as it tells the story of his fight against slavery and efforts to free Cuba from Spanish rule. A portion of the text and illustrations deal with slavery, so the publisher recommends it for ages 8 -12.
The strength of family ties and community is central to these Latino picture books, and the characters are inspiring in many different ways. Children ask to read these books again and again, so add them to your home or classroom library and enjoy!
Disclosure: Publisher Lee & Low Books has sent me copies of several of these books over the years. They also support our Summer Spanish Read and Play program.