Reader to Reader: Cultivating Reading Relationships with Spanish-English Bilingual Books

By Andrea García, Hofstra University

Every November, I look forward to attending the Annual Convention of the National Council of Teachers of English, and browsing books at the exhibits in order to build my professional and personal Spanish-English bilingual children’s library. I know that I am always able to find interesting new books after visiting Cinco Puntos Press , or Arte Público Press. This past November, I also visited West End Discovery Press and found a couple of wonderful books I couldn’t wait to share with my students and my family. For this week’s blog, I will share three recent additions to my collection of bilingual books; books that promise will provide me with opportunities to establish strong reading connections through shared reading experiences in my classes, just as they have become staples of our reading time at home.

What is high and what is low?
Who is fast and who is slow?
Something is always higher and
something is always lower,
or faster, or slower
or hotter, or colder.

¿Qué es algo y qué es bajo?
¿Quién va lento y quién va rápido?
Siempre hay algo más alto y
siempre hay algo más bajo,
o más rápido, o más lento,
o menos rico, o más suculento.

e Michael Smith

The first book is by Michael Smith and is entitled Relatividad/Relativity (2011), published by West End Discovery Press. With illustrations from Octavio Oliva, this book captivated my attention with its vibrant illustrations and the admirable use rhyme in both Spanish and English to introduce the scientific concept of relativity. The story takes the reader into a journey of discovering how things are relative to each other, and how our understanding of our role in the world may change depending on how we construct our relationships with other things and with other people. A book sure to inspire multiple perspectives and to ignite readers’ curiosity. Oliva’s innovative illustrations add another layer of excitement to the reading of this book. Smith and Olvia have collaborated in other highly acclaimed projects, like their bilingual picture book My Ducky Buddy/Mi Amigo El Pato.

Sometimes in the desert where I live, the wind blows very, very hard.
A veces, en el desierto donde vivo, el viento sopla muy, muy fuerte.
Desert sand covers everything. Everything is the same color…
La arena del desierto lo cubre todo. Todo parece del mismo color…
I open my eyes extra-wide to find the colors in my world.
Abro bien los ojos para encontrar los colores de mi mundo.

e Maya Christina Gonzalez

Set within the landscape of the Mojave desert, Maya Christina Gonzalez used her memories of growing up in Lancaster, California to inspire her book My Colors, My World/ Mis Colores, Mi Mundo (2007), published by Children’s Book Press. My second selection is this vibrant bilingual story of a young girl looking at the world from her own perspective, which was awarded the Pura Belpre Illustration Award in 2008. Gonzalez’ captivating artwork, which highlights the protagonist’s eyes as a metaphor for her search of a sense of place against the backdrop of the colorless desert landscape, include elements that may remind readers of magical realism, where reality and imagination merge to create an alternative new dimension from where to see the world. While introducing readers to colors in both Spanish and English, this book offers much more than this, allowing readers to explore and share the colors and experiences that shape the fabric of their own worlds.

 

Oh, Juanito! He’s always counting out kisses. Look!
¡
Ay, Johnny! Simpre va contando besos. ¡Mira!

e Lee Merrill Byrd

In Juanito Counts to Ten/Johnny Cuenta Hasta Diez: A bilingual Counting Book written by Lee Merrill Byrd and illustrated by Francisco Delgado (2010), we meet Juanito, who loves to count, and more specifically, he loves to count out kisses! Inspired by the author’s grandson, Byrd’s text and Delgado’s illustrations create an engaging story that entertains young and old readers alike as Juanito shares his affection distributing kisses to friends, loved ones, and even to Stray Gray, the family cat. While Juanito counts to ten, the challenge of keeping up with a growing amount of kisses begins to catch up with him, until the very end, when we wonder if Juanito has run out of kisses… We soon discover there is not end to his love for his family and friends. This book is an invitation for young readers to consider ways in which they each care about their loved-ones.

These are just three of the books I have added to my collection of Spanish-English bilingual picture books in the past couple of years.

• What are some of your new additions to your own picture book collections?
• Are there any bilingual picture books, in any other languages, that you are looking forward to sharing with readers?

 Please visit wowlit.org to browse or search our growing database of books, to read one of our two on-line journals, or to learn more about our mission.

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