Red Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Being Young and Latino in the United States (anthology)

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Accessibility

  • Vocabulary: combination of English and Spanish (many poems have una mezcla)
    • Poems translated to English from Spanish and vice versa
  • No Lexile rating for poetry books, but appropriate for 7th through 12th grade
  • Wide variety of syntax complexity
  • Requires understanding of poetry conventions (lack of punctuation, personification, metaphor, simile)

Relevance

  • Many voices and experiences represented, but specifically about being Latino
  • Poems sorted into categories: Language and Identity; Neighborhoods; Amor; Family Moments, Memories; Victory
  • Many poems are about the struggle to communicate

Goodness: YES!

  • Poems could be used to teach students about:
    • Sensory language, metaphor, simile, etc.
    • Exploration of identity
  • Use poems as mentor texts and ask students to write poems about stereotypes, their neighborhood, their family
  • Pair with Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Latino in the United States

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Breaking Through by Francisco Jiménez

BT

Accessibility:

  • 750L ~ 5th-7th grade
  • Language: occasional Spanish words, mostly simple vocabulary (some difficult words include: disrespects, notifying, snickering, huddles, janitor)
  • Short, quick read (193 pages, but it’s a small book with large text!)

Relevancy:

  • Topics: Family, heritage & culture, discrimination & racism, poverty, coming of age, immigration
  • Main character is a bright Mexican immigrant struggling to make his way to college despite the challenges of his family’s undocumented status and poverty.

Goodness:

  • Yes- would recommend (conditionally – see below)

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  • Good story, discusses big issues such as racism and poverty without being depressing or hopeless.
  • Note: Some people had issues with this book because of the way it views meritocracy and the path to social mobility – for many people, the success that this narrative presents is not possible (or is even more difficult). However, it then presents a perfect opportunity to open up discussion about these issues through a critical lens!

Listen, Slowly by Thanhhà Lai

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Accessibility

  • 800L ~ 5th-7th grade
  • Written in prose

Relevancy

  • Family heritage and cultural background
  • The main character is a 1st generation American who returns to her parents’ country of birth to help her grandmother reunite with her grandfather

Goodness:

  • Yes- would recommend!

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Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

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  • Accessibility
    • Some complex sentence structures;
    • Lexile: 700L (for a 7th grader, would place them around a 4 on WiDA scale); recommended ages 10-18
    • Told in first person through prose
  • Relevance
    • About an 11 year old girl who is unable to communicate due to cerebral palsy; all she wants is to be able to talk and tell people she’s actually really smart
    • Would relate well to students who have known what it’s like to have their peers think they’re not smart, or who have experience with not being able to express themselves through language
  • Goodness
    • Great read; took me about 5 hours.

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PDF 

Audiobook Version 1 

Audiobook Version 2

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate

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Accessibility:

  • Lexile: N/A, but recommended for 5-8th grade
  • Written in verse, easy to comprehend vocab
  • Narrator is an ELL- first person
  • Short chapters

Relevance:

  • Narrator is a Somali refugee, culture shock, family trauma, going to school for the first time
  • Issues with it being written by a white woman from America, but that may not be noticeable to students
  • Very “happy ending”- almost everything “goes right” for Kek

Goodness: Yes- would recommend

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Audiobook

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

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Accessibility

  • 870L
  • Told in first person through vignettes
  • Conversational narration – narrator is about 12-13 years old

Relevance

  • Universal themes including family, identity, coming of age

Goodness: YES!

  • Audiobook read by author is excellent
  • Use to spark conversations and writing about community and the kind of future we want for ourselves
  • Use as a model text for sensory language
  • Collage activity idea from NCTE

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PDF 

Audiobook