Tito, the Firefighter / Tito, el bombero, by Tim Hoppey, is a picture book about being bilingual. It is the story of a boy named Tito, who explains at the beginning of the story that he speaks two languages, inglés and español. I like this story because it illustrates one of the biggest advantages of being bilingual. That is, if you speak two languages, you can help more people. Often adults focus on the higher test scores or job opportunities that come with two languages, but those are very abstract to children. They will recognize, like Tito in the story, that being able to help the people around them is an important part of speaking two languages.
Tito is fascinated by firemen and wants very much to ride in a fire truck. One day he is in the fire station when a man arrives and explains in Spanish that there is a fire. The firemen do not speak Spanish, but Tito can help. Kids will be satisfied with the action and how the story unfolds.
This story is mostly in English with Spanish words masterfully woven into the text. The Spanish is included naturally as Tito explains being bilingual or interprets for someone. If the Spanish words are not repeated in English, the context and pictures make the meaning clear.
For example, explaining that in his neighborhood almost everyone speaks Spanish, Tito says “When my mother sends me to the store for milk and eggs, I ask for leche and huevos.” He also explains, “If you ask how old I am, I might say eight in English or I might say ocho in Spanish. I am bilingual. I speak two languages, inglés and español.
Tito, the Firefighter / Tito, el bombero is an excellent choice for children beginning to learn Spanish. It includes useful words like inglés, español, hola, ocho, tres, bombero, camión de bomberos, rojo, gracias, de nada, and siesta. The action and bright illustrations will appeal to kids, and they will absorb the basic vocabulary and the encouraging message as well.