Hispanic Heritage: Learning about Immigration through Books

A collection of resources for teaching children Hispanic heritage and immigration.

Publisher’s Weekly likens Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco, the debut novel of Judith Robbins Ross, to Junie B. Jones/Ramona Quimby if Junie or Ramona had been a Mexican-American girl whose pre-teen concerns included “immigration, culture and language.” It is a good comparison, and I think readers who enjoy those characters will also love Jacinta, whose life takes a major turn when she meets Kate Dawson Dahl, a local news reporter.

Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco is a middle-grade novel. If you are exploring immigration with younger children, you will find a list of excellent resources below.

Jacinta and Kate’s worlds become intertwined through a chance encounter at a community center Jacinta attends after school when Kate arrives to do a news segment on teen pregnancy. The encounter changes both of their lives in ways they never would have imagined.

This middle-grade novel is being released for Hispanic Heritage Month and many might categorize is as an “immigration story.” However, what I liked best about the novel (told from Jacinta’s perspective) is that it is more than that. Jacinta’s story is truly universal. Yes, Jacinta’s interactions with Kate push her out of her neighborhood and comfort zone, which typically involves other immigrant families, but Jacinta’s pre-teen dilemmas are not exclusively based on cultural differences or even class differences, which are certainly relevant. Many of the struggles Jacinta works through in the book are universal adolescent and pre-adolescent struggles about how to fit in, how to find one’s place in their world, how to handle jealousy of one’s friends, how to deal with shifting family dynamics and much more — things that virtually ever 10-16 year-old youth can relate to.

For me, the universality of the book is its strength as it can allow youth to see that others they might assume are different from them are not so different after all — it highlights the shared humanity among us all, which is something that Jacinta and Kate discover as they seek to bridge the cultural and socio-economic divides that separate them. The two discover that they need each other and that they have much in common, despite the obvious differences between them (age, class, ethnicity). I also commend the author for writing a book that children like Jacinta can relate to — they can see themselves, their families, their neighborhoods, their friends in print, which remains all too rare.

Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco is both funny and heart-warming, and its characters truly leap off the page. You close the book feeling like you really know Jacinta and Kate and are better for having known them.

I recommend the book, but also hope that Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco will be one of the many books that are read to explore the topic of immigration and to highlight Hispanic Heritage Month as there is a wide array of voices, backgrounds and heritages that represent what it means to be Hispanic or Latino/a. Yes, immigration is relevant for many Latinos, but not for all — and there are immigrants from other parts of the world, not just Latin America.

This young adult novel deals with Hispanic heritage and immigration in a sensitive and engaging way.

If you want to explore the topic of immigration further, here are some additional resources:

Below you will find more wonderful resources to share Hispanic heritage with kids. We will be linking up posts all month long. You can also enter to win great prizes!

Hispanic Heritage Month Series 2015 | Multicultural Kid BlogsWe are so excited for our FOURTH annual Hispanic Heritage Month series and giveaway!  Through the month (September 15 – October 15), you’ll find great resources to share Hispanic Heritage with kids, plus you can enter to win in our great giveaway and link up your own posts on Hispanic Heritage!

Hispanic Heritage Month Giveaway!

Giveaway begins Monday, September 14 and goes through October 15, 2015.

Enter below for a chance to win one of these amazing prize packages! Some prizes have shipping restrictions. In the event that a winner lives outside the designated shipping area, that prize will then become part of the following prize package. For more information, read our full giveaway rules.

Hispanic Heritage Month Giveaway: Grand Prize

Grand Prize

Home Learning Series Level A Curriculum from Calico Spanish US Shipping Only

Puzzle and app from Mundo Lanugo US Shipping Only

Sheet of Mexico themed nail wraps from Jamberry US & Canada Shipping Only

Complete set of If You Were Me and Lived In… books (15 countries) from Carole P. Roman US Shipping Only

Large Latin American prize basket (scarves, purse, bracelets, books, map) from Spanish Playground US Shipping Only

Growing Up Pedro & Mango, Abuela, and Me (in English or Spanish) from Candlewick Press US & Canada Shipping Only

The Giraffe That Ate the Moon and Caroline’s Color Dreams (bilingual books in English and Spanish) from Bab’l Books US, UK, & Europe Shipping Only

Bienvenidas las raras (bilingual book in English and Spanish) from Delia Berlin

Los Animales CD from Mister G US Shipping Only

Hola Hello CD from Mariana Iranzi US Shipping Only

Bananagrams game in Spanish from Bananagrams US Shipping Only

Kids’ T-shirt from Ellie Elote US Shipping Only

Hispanic Heritage Month Giveaway: 1st Prize

First Prize

Perú, México and Portugal books from the If You Were Me and Lived In… series from Carole P. Roman US Shipping Only

Smaller Latin American prize basket (scarves, purse, bracelets) from Spanish Playground US Shipping Only

Bienvenidas las raras (bilingual book in English and Spanish) from Delia Berlin

Los Animales CD from Mister G US Shipping Only

Hola Hello CD from Mariana Iranzi US Shipping Only

Bananagrams game in Spanish from Bananagrams US Shipping Only

3 picture books: Finding the Music/En pos de la música by Jennifer Torres
Water Rolls, Water Rises/El agua rueda, el agua sube by Pat Mora
The Upside Down Boy/ El niño de cabeza by Juan Felipe Herrera (in honor of his recently being named the Poet Laureate) from Lee and Low Books US Shipping Only

3 board books: 3 Board Books – Loteria, Zapata, Lucha Libre from Lil’ libros US Shipping Only

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage – Musical Craft and Coloring E-Book from Daria Marmaluk Hajioannou

Kid’s foreign language T-Shirt (available in Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Swahili, Hawaiian, Italian, in infant onesies, toddler and youth sizes tees and tanks; women’s tees and tanks SM-XL) from Mixed Up Clothing US Shipping Only

Hispanic Heritage Month Giveaway: 2nd Prize

Second Prize

Perú, México and Portugal books from the If You Were Me and Lived In… series from Carole P. Roman US Shipping Only

Smaller Latin American prize basket (scarves, purse) from Spanish Playground US Shipping Only

2 picture books: Maya’s Blanket/La manta de Maya by Monica Brown
Call Me Tree/Llámame Árbol by Maya Christina Gonzalez from Lee & Low books US Shipping Only

Bienvenidas las raras (bilingual book in English and Spanish) from Delia Berlin

Los Animales CD from Mister G US Shipping Only

Bananagrams game in Spanish from Bananagrams US Shipping Only

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage – Musical Craft and Coloring E-Book from Daria Marmaluk Hajioannou

Bonus Prize!

Luchador piñata

Mexican luchador piñata from Las Piñatas de Laly EU Shipping Only

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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Jennifer Fischer

Jennifer Fischer is a writer, mediamaker, and teaching artist whose work has been featured by NBCLatino, ABC, Univision, Fusion, NBCBLK, etc. Her film “THE wHOLE” premiered at Amnesty International’s 50th Anniversary Human Rights Conference. Recent publications include pieces in Ms. Magazine, Last Girls Club, Literary Mama, Oranges Journal, Barzakh Magazine and Under Her Eye from Black Spot Books. An essay of hers appears in What is a Criminal? Answers from Inside the U.S. Justice System, an anthology from Routledge, published Jan. 2023.

1 thought on “Hispanic Heritage: Learning about Immigration through Books”

  1. We usually celebrate El Salvador’s Dia de la Independencia by eating traditional food. Our son is still an infant so we look forward to expanding our traditions and celebrating our family’s culture.

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