Carmen T. Bernier-Grand is an award-winning author of children’s books. She is originally from Puerto Rico, and her works include wonderful Spanish language biographies of Latino leaders Justice Sonia Sotomayor and labor organizer Cesar Chavez. These biographies are also available in English editions.
Be sure to visit our Spanish Books for Kids Resource Page for more reviews and activities.
Latino Leaders Inspire and Empower
All children growing up in the United States should learn about Cesar Chavez and Sonia Sotomayor, because these Latino leaders dedicated their lives to equality and justice. Of course, Justice Sotomayor’s work continues, as the third woman, and first Latina, on the Supreme Court.
Reading about the lives of Latino leaders is especially important for children who don’t see themselves represented in the books they read. In Carmen T. Bernier-Grand’s books, young Latino readers will identify with the characters, relating to dozens of details and recognizing themselves and their families. Seeing themselves in these books empowers children, showing them that they too are capable achieving their dreams.
These books are available in English and Spanish. So, if your language learners are not ready to read the book in Spanish, I encourage you to make the English versions available. In either language, they are a fabulous cultural addition to a elementary Spanish curriculum.
Latino Leaders: Language to Learn
In her biographies, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand captures the complex lives of these Latino leaders in clear, engaging language. She writes in free verse, using only words that contribute directly to the picture she is creating.
The author presents the facts with short phrasing, accessible vocabulary and repetition to build rhythm. Adding carefully selected detail, she weaves touching stories. The facts and observations build on each other, creating a rich tapestry of events and details.
Latino Leaders: Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor: Jueza de la Corte Suprema introduces readers to Sotomayor as a baby. Then it peeks into her toddler years, and follows her through her education to an amazing career in our courts. Written completely in the present tense, the book includes details of Puerto Rican culture that speak to the author’s connection with the island. This story is a testament to the struggle of becoming bilingual, the strength of family and individual will, and the brilliance of Justice Sotomayor.
Latino Leaders: César Chávez
Cesar: ¡Sí, Se Puede! Yes, We Can is a biography of labor organizer César Chávez. Through details of his childhood, readers see how his family suffered through the depression as migrant workers. They also witness the love and faith that sustained them. They learn how César Chávez was inspired to organize farm workers to change the horrendous working conditions they endured, and about the profound impact he made. This book weaves César Chavéz’s own words into the text, adding his voice to the story of his struggle for justice.
This is an important story because of César Chavéz’s impact. However, it is also important because the conditions he fought to change still exist today. Farm workers continue to suffer exploitation and work in dangerous conditions, and raising awareness among young people is fundamental to long-term change.
The English version of César ¡Sí se puede! Yes, We Can! is available now on Amazon. The bilingual edition of Cesar ¡Sí se puede Yes, We Can! is temporarily out of stock, but you can order it. In addition, the author tells me that Pearson will be printing Spanish editions for the classroom. That is excellent news!
You can learn more about the author and her work on the Carmen T. Bernier-Grand website. She has resources for teachers and is also available as a speaker.
Books like these biographies were not available in Spanish when my children were young. So, I settled for poor translations into Spanish and brought books home from Mexico. I am so happy that children today can read about Latino leaders from the United States in Spanish. These biographies by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand tell true stories that speak to the march of progress, however slow it may seem. That these books are available for children to read is also evidence that we are moving the right direction.