“When you give someone an education, it changes them irreversibly; it transforms their life and it changes their community forever.” –Marty Castro
Hispanic Heritage Month is here (September 15 to October 15)! As we have done in the past with other heritage months, CLI is excited to share our thoughts on how to honor and acknowledge this special occasion, along with book recommendations and resources for the classroom.
Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States began as a commemorative week in 1968. Momentum from the 1960s Civil Rights Movement spurred a growing awareness of the United States' various multicultural identities. As part of that momentum, Congressman George E. Brown, who represented an area of California with a large Hispanic population, wanted to recognize their contributions throughout American history. In 1988, this week was turned into a month.
CLI’s approach to this month aligns with its views on all of the Heritage Months we acknowledge – we believe to authentically tell our nation’s history, we must create a story that’s inclusive and goes beyond the accomplishments, ideas, and creations of a few. Schools need to integrate these stories along with the narratives that have been ignored and/or overlooked into their current curriculum throughout the entire school year. If your experience has been like many others, you may not remember learning about topics related to Latinx people until college. This is not where we need to be. As our country becomes more diverse, we have got to do a better job of sharing a more inclusive story about who we are, where we are from, why we came here, how we came here, what we have experienced, and what we have done. More specifically, educators may want to ask themselves Guiding Questions when planning for this month.
We also want to “encourage educators to remember that racial justice and anti-bias work exist beyond a Black and White binary. The Asian, Indigenous and Latinx communities must be a part of any work labeled diverse, culturally responsive and anti-racist.” (Elizabeth Kleinrock, Learning for Justice; formerly Teaching Tolerance)
Here are some ways you can use children’s literature to dig deeper into the Latinx experience. These umbrella concepts and questions can be used to build positive identities, celebrate the joy of other cultures, spark conversation, and inspire children to stand up for change.
Connect Children to Their History
- How do you see yourself in the activists we read about?
- What did you learn about who you want to be?
- In what ways do you and your family celebrate your culture?
Intersectionality refers to the social, economic, and political ways in which identity-based systems of oppression and privilege connect, overlap, and influence one another. Help children understand what intersectionality is as a concept and how it makes for different life experiences for Latinx people.
- How does race impact the life experiences of Latinx people?
- How do you know when something is unfair?
- Make a list of things that you think are unfair. For example, you may want to focus on classroom and/or school policies and/or rules.
- Why do you think these things are unfair?
- How would you change these things to make them more fair?
- How did the changes you made to make things more fair affect people’s lives?
Understand and Dismantle Racism
- How does hate show up in our lives today?
Have Children Explore Their Own Identities
Gaining an understanding of who you are in this world is incredibly important, and providing children an opportunity at a young age to explore this journey is an essential part of a child’s development. Literature is a bridge to a large variety of discussions around identity. This is also an excellent way to introduce the concept of intersectionality.
- How did the identities of the main character affect the story?
- If the gender of the main character was changed, how do you think the story may have been told differently?
- To introduce intersectionality:
- When you think of yourself, what are the major identities that come to mind first – e.g., gender, race, neighborhood, athlete, musician, etc.? Discuss if you feel that some of your identities result in you being treated more fairly than others that you hold.
- Facilitate a conversation around a character that has lots of interesting identities that intersect, e.g.: a very athletic, Latinx girl who loves to play football with the boys at recess, and is an amazing drummer with her local drill team. Discuss how her intersecting identities impact how she is viewed and treated in the story.
Hispanic Heritage Month Book Collection
In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, our 2021 list of picture books centering the lives and language varieties of Hispanic people offers family stories, biography, memoir, fantasy, and folk tales in Spanish and English.
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