Inside: A list of the best Spanish books with black characters and for celebrating Black History Month.
As educators and parents, we have so much power to shape how our students see themselves and those around them. The cumulation of the words we speak, the lessons we teach, and the books we share can all work together to fight racism and promote empathy in the next generation– or not.
Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, in Scholastic, describes how books function for us as both mirrors and windows:
“Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of a larger human experience… readers often seek their mirrors in books.”– Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop
As we choose what lessons to teach, we must make sure our students of color consistently see themselves in the materials we use.
That is not to say that all books must have characters that look like our kids. As Bishop says, books also act as windows into other cultures, allowing us to travel to other places and connect with others who are not exactly like us.– Scholastic
We should ensure that all of our students see diverse representation. It’s important that Black children see themselves as the heroes, positive role models, and everyday characters in books.
It’s also vital that non-black children regularly see this too, as we work to break down stereotypes and raise kids who see the beauty and brilliance of all humans– whether they look like them or not.
As a young white teacher, I began my teaching career with an eagerness to make all children in my classroom feel loved and seen and accepted. For all my good intentions, and for all my travels, I had a long way to go to creating an anti-racist classroom.
I do not know all the answers or have all the right words. The work to undo my own biases is ongoing, but here are some actionable things I can do as a teacher and parent:
- Educate myself: surround myself with Black voices or marginalized voices and listen.
- Create lessons featuring a variety of voices, experiences, and cultures.
- Am I continuing to read and listen to black teachers and authors, to learn and grow?
Once again, books to the rescue!
Diverse Spanish Books for Kids
Here are the sections for this post. Click on the link if you are looking just for a certain section!
- Spanish Books about Anti-Racism and Self-Acceptance
- Spanish Books Featuring Black Protagonists
- Diverse Board Books in Spanish
- Biographies in Spanish
- Spanish Chapter Books with Black Protagonists
- Activism and Civil Rights History
Small publishers and book stores you can support (search for the titles!):
- Lil’ Libros
- Todos Leyendo
- Lee & Low Books
- Cuentology Books
- Arte Publico
- Chauluna Books NY
Related: 50 Books by Spanish Speaking Authors
Acceptance and Anti-Racism Spanish Books
These picture books celebrate Black beauty, different kinds of beauty, positive body image, and in general loving your unique self.
El día en que descubres quién eres
In everything from customs to appearance, this books teaches children to accept differences and be confident in new situations, through flowing and beautifully written text.
El cabello maravilloso de Dalia
Set in Cuba, this story tells the tale of Dalia’s magical adventure: one morning she wakes up to find her hair has grown as tall as the sky, and her mother and all the neighbors wonder what she can be.
Written by US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, ¡Solo pregunta! tells the story of a group of children planting a garden together. Each children has something special about them, and contributes accordingly, in a celebration of differences and shared work.
One day a white bunny rabbit falls in love with a black girl and wants to be as beautiful and dark-skinned as she is, and eventually finds out her secret for being so beautiful.
Quizas algo hermoso
Mira sets out with her neighbors to make their neighborhood beautiful, joins forces with a local muralist (who happens to be the illustrator, Rafael López), and brings inspiration, through beauty, to her community along the way. This book is based on a true story, with gorgeous illustrations!
Pelo malo no existe
Sometimes bullies will label certain hair types as “bad,” especially curly hair belonging to some children. This bilingual book leads children to appreciate that all kinds of hair are good and beautiful.
Escuchando con mi corazón: Una cuento de bondad y autocompasión
Through the story of a little girl, Esperanza, this story helps children understand that their self-worth does not depend on their accomplishments or failures. After a disappointment at school, she learns how to be kind to herself and spread that love to others.
Todos los colores de nuestra piel
This books offers adults and children the context for directly talking about different skin colors and why we have them, in a sensitive and fact-based way. For parents and teachers who aren’t quite sure how to lead discussions with children about race.
¿De dónde eres?
An award-winning book that follows a young girl who is frequently asked “Where are you from?” and doesn’t quite know how to answer. Her grandfather tells her in beautiful words what her roots are, touching on themes of identity and belonging along the way.
Mariama diferente pero igual
Mariama is a young girl whose family has recently moved from the continent of Africa to the United States. This story follows her journey as she adjusts to a new culture and learns what is special about her own roots and her new home.
Parents can help their kids fight against racism from the very beginning, as outlined in these “nine easy steps for building a more equitable world.” Educators and parents can also use the discussion prompts to learn better how to talk about racism with young children.
Colores que se aman
Following the perspective of a biracial child who overhears some hateful remarks and talks about them with abuela, this story is a helpful context for talking about biracial families.
Por que yo soy yo
In a direct discussion about self-acceptance, this bilingual books helps kids to understand how to express themselves and their needs. It also discusses accepting our own unique bodies, just as they are.
La alegría de ser tu y yo
Through the story of a diverse group of children playing together at a park, this book demonstrates how physical differences are good and beautiful in language that young readers can understand.
Esté bien ser diferente
This books guides young children to celebrate diversity in both physical appearance and personalities. It also teaches kids how to be accepting of one another and extend kindness, regardless of differences.
The heart of mi familia
Though this one is mostly in English, the story of this bicultural family is great for kids whose families are multicultural or multiracial.
Spanish books with Black Protagonists
This section is probably my favorite. While fiction and non-fiction books that actively address racism and diversity are much-needed, I love having books in which Black children and families are the main characters, and the books are about everyday life or simply good stories.
When we stock our homes and classrooms with books like these, children can see themselves reflected in beloved stories. And all children– white, Black, brown– benefit immensely from seeing children of all ethnicities and cultures starring in the story.
Not all mirror books need to be about a specific person who has achieved great things. Kids also need to see kids just like themselves doing ordinary kid stuff like visiting the library, going to the pool, and playing in the backyard.– ScholASTIC
You might notice that some of these stories do not specifically say that the characters are Afro-Latinos or African-American. My criteria in including the following tilies was to choose books in which Black children can see themselves and their families reflected, even as lines between ethnicities sometimes blur.
Un dia de nieve
A Caldecott Medal winner, Un día de nieve has delighted children for generations as they follow Peter’s magical day exploring in the snow.
Pulitzer prize-winning author Junot Díaz brings us this magical tale about memories. When Lola receives a school assignment to tell where her family is from, she doesn’t know how to describe the Dominican Republic because she moved to the United States as a baby. With the help of her family’s memories, she takes a magical trip to the island where she was born.
El niño que domó el viento
After the crops from William’s family are devastated by a drought, he goes to the library to research what he can do. Through determination and creativity, he pieces together a windmill that changes his family’s life by providing them electricity and water for their crops. Based on a true story from the author’s life.
Última parada de la calle market
While other kids ride in cars and have things like iPads, Jackson and his abuela ride the bus out and back home to Market Street. When asks his grandmother why one day, she takes the times to point out all the wonderful things that surround them in this Newberry winner of 2016.
A bear in a toy store dreams of what it would be like to have a real home. One day, a girls spots him and asks her mother to buy him, but the mother notices that Corduroy is missing a button. That night, Corduroy sets off to find his button. This famous book is the oldest ones I’m aware of featuring a Black family as the main characters.
La sorpresa de nandi
One day, Nandi sets off to visit her friend in a nearby village, carrying a big basket of fruit on her head. Along the way, though, a group of naughty animals make off with the fruit, leaving only mandarin oranges. A funny, surprising story set on the African continent that young kids will enjoy.
¿Que puedes hacer con una paleta?
A bright, playful story about popsicles from a street seller in a Mexican neighborhood, as seen through the eyes of a little girl.
Mi Papi tiene una moto
Daisy’s father has a motorcycle. As they ride together through their city, they notice what is changing and what they love about it. A sweet story about love for home, as well as between father and daughter.
Kibo y el dragón morado
One day, Kibo wakes up a spies a purple dragon outside his window. Throughout the day, it seems as if the dragon is following him around, wherever he goes! This fun book helps children identify and overcome their fears.
Omu cooks a delicious stew, and everyone in the neighborhood wants to have a bowl. Generous Omu shares the stew with her neighbors, but will she get a bowl as well? This Caldecott Winner of 2019 has a lovely message of sharing and community.
La silla de Pedro
Another well-known book from Ezra Jack Keats, La silla de Pedro tells the story of a boy whose baby sister seems to be getting all the things that belonged to him– and so one day, he decides to run away and save his little old chair.
Oye, Muro (Hey, Wall): Un cuento de arte y comunidad
A story about a little boy who sees a blank wall in his community and decides to get neighbors together to turn it into something beautiful and colorful.
El vestido de Jamela
Jamela’s older sister is getting married, and Jamela loves her wedding dress so much that she decides to try it on herself and takes a walk in the flowing, beautiful dress. The unexpected happens, and it looks like the dress might be ruined– until a solution and happy ending come along!
Discos de mi Abuela
Based on the author’s own memories of visiting his Grandmother in Spanish Harlem during the summers, where they listened to records of music from Puerto Rico and shared old family stories.
Jabari has learned to swim and is working up the courage to jump off the high dive–but he just can’t seem to take the leap, until his father comes along to help him.
¡Bonita es la vida!
A magical story of a giraffe with wings, who carries a little girl to the African continent to discover how beautiful and vibrant it is.
La asombrosa Graciela
Grace (Graciela) loves all kinds of stories and loves to act them out. When her school decides to perform Peter Pan, she knows she can be the star, even though her classmates aren’t sure it’s a role she can do. But with the help of her mother and grandmother, she know it’s possible.
Los deseos de Carmela
It’s Carmen’s birthday, and she spends a wonderful afternoon with her brother, going around the city. When she finds a dandelion, she has to make a wish, but isn’t sure what to wish for. From award-winning duo Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson.
Ayobami y el nombre de los animales
When the war ends, Ayobami’s dream of going to school comes true. The only problem is that she must take a dangerous path through the jungle to get there. This book helps kids understand perseverance and the struggle some kids experience just trying to get to school.
Jeremy wants the same shoes he sees the other kids at school wearing. Even though his grandmother says he should think about what he needs, not what he wants, he can’t stop thinking about them and trying to find a way to get them too. This story will resonate with many kids who want stuff “all the other kids have,” while learning to appreciate what they already have.
El regalo magico
Jaime’s family has just moved from the Dominican Republic to English-speaking New York City. Though it’s a struggle to adjust to his new life and trying to make friends, a special gift comes along to help him.
Directo al aro
A winner of the ALA Notable Children’s Book award, this story is about a boy who loves basketball. One day, he gets the chance to play with a group of older, taller boys and have his skills and perseverance tested.
Las bellas hijas de Mufaro
This Caldecott Honor books recounts a fable from Zimbabwe that tells the story of the two daughters of Mufaro, who are very different from each other. When the king decides to look for someone to marry his son, Mufaro’s kind daughter Nayasha decides she will become the new princess.
A bilingual, lyrical bedtime story about Mother Sky looking for Little Night as evening draws near, from award-winning author and illustrator Yuyi Morales.
El coleccionista de palabras‘
Jerome loves all kinds of words, and collects them just as some people might collect coins or stamps. A fun story for helping kids to appreciate the power of words and language .
Laboriosos deditos de las manos/ de los pies
These fun books list the things our hands and feet can do.
Mi corazón se llena de alegría
This sweet books lists all kinds of things to be thankful for, for kids to adults.
I just discovered this series of books about Lola and her everyday adventures, like learning to be a big sister, visiting the library, planting and garden and more!
El regalo de mi abuela
In this story based on the author’s own childhood, Eric visits the Metropolitan Museum with his grandmother for a school projects, and find inspiration that will change his life.
¡Yum! ¡MMMM! ¡Que rico!
Written in haikus, this books introduces kids to the delicious foods that are native to the Americas.
Por que zumban los Mosquitos en los Oídos de la gente
The winner of the 1976 Caldecott Medal, Por que zumban los Mosquitos en los Oídos de la gente tells the fanciful story of why we can’t stand mosquitos: “A mosquito annoyed the iguana, who frightened the python, who scared the rabbit?and now the whole jungle is in an uproar because the sun won’t rise.”
Papá y yo
Through sweet rhyming text, follow the day of a dad and his little son, as they go throughout their daily routine.
Diverse Spanish Board Books
Here is a collection of books you can use with your baby or toddler that celebrate diversity.
Te amo sol, Te amo luna
From beloved author and illustrator Tomie dePaola, this board book uses simple language to talk about everyday objects, with a diverse group of children.
Bebés del mundo
Meet babies from around the world, through real photos and lyrical text about how all are loved and special.
Learn about things that are cerca, (and things that are lejos in the companion book to this one), through the eyes of a little girl.
Introduce your little ones to the classic folk song in Spanish “De colores,” through a celebration of beauty in nature and people.
Diez deditos de las manos
Meet more babies from all over the world, and a mother’s love for her own baby as she counts his fingers and toes.
Bebé vamos a comer
Introduce your baby to all kind of yummy foods in different colors and shapes with this book. The size and texture is a little different from traditional board books (it looks like a pamphlet and is thin), but it is made from special eco-friendly material that resists the biting, tearing, and dropping that happen when babies hold books.
La Vida de Celia and La Vida de Pelé
The acclaimed Lil’ Libros books have a series of bilingual books for introducing famous people to young readers. (Though the series say they are “biographies,” the text is usually a simple word or phrase associated with that famous person and not an entire story of their life.)
Introduce the five sense to your baby with this sweet and simple bilingual book!
Also from Lil´ Libros, this series takes young readers around the world to get to know cities from all over Latin America. The vivid and authentic illustrations in these books are really wonderful.
A bedtime lullaby book that features a father getting baby ready to sleep. I’m not sure I love the translation quality 100%, but I do really love the family portrayed and the illustrations.
Biographies in spanish for BlaCk History Month
Kids need to see people who look like them who have faced challenges, overcome obstacles, and made a difference in the world…– Scholastic
Se audaz se valiente
This books highlights 11 Latinas who are famous in American history, including: “Antonia Novello (first female Surgeon General in the U.S.), Ellen Ochoa (first Latina to go to space), Sonia Sotomayor (first Latina Supreme Court Justice,) Rita Moreno (first Latina to win an Oscar), and Pura Belpre (first Latina to incorporate and promote bilingual literacy in Public Libraries).”
Me llamo Celia – Celiz Cruz
Pele, Rey de Futbol – Pele
Wilma sin límites – Wilma Rudolph
This books highlights 11 Latinos who are famous in American history, including: Cesar Chavez (Activist), Jose Hernandez(Astronaut), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Playwright), Jean-Michel Basquiat (Artist), and Julian Castro (Politician).
Schomburg: El hombre que creó una biblioteca
Arturo Schomburg, an Afro-Puerto Rican, was a law clerk who loved to collect literature and art from Africa and the African diaspora, to honor “people of African descent through the ages.” This is the story of how to put together this famous collection.
Feliz cumpleaños, Martin Luther King – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Wangari y los árboles de paz
The story of a Kenyan woman, Wangari, who fought against deforestation by starting a movement to plant more trees.
Las historias más bellas de mujeres valientes
Stories of women who made history through their courage and contributions.
Richard Wright y el carne de biblioteca
Living the in South in the 1920’s, Richard Wright wasn’t able to get a library card. This story tells how his dream of access to a library came true.
Celebra el Día de Martin Luther King, Jr. con la clase de Sra. Park
Learn about the legacy of Dr. King along with Mrs. Park’s class, as they prepare a party to celebrate the day.
El sueño de Emmanuel
The true-life story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, a boy from Ghana who overcame a disability in his left leg to become a cyclist.
Sembrando historias: Pura Belpré, bibliotecaria y narradora de cuentos
Pura Belpré, a Puerto Rican library assistant in New York in the 1920’s, was a storyteller who loved to preserve tales from her homeland, and whose legacy lives on today.
This is another collection of biographies, this time 13 stories of American women who overcame obstacles and changed the world.
El Rey de las Octavas
Learn about the life and career of the Cuban violinist Claudio José Domingo.
Llegar a ser Pedro: Cómo los hermanos Martínez llegaron hasta las grandes ligas desde un pequeño pueblo en República Dominicana
Pequeña & Grande Series
The Little People, BIG DREAMS series, according to creator Maria Isabel, was created because “children love to read real stories about other children achieving great things. It gives them the strength and the courage to believe in themselves and dream BIG.” Most of the books are available in Spanish!
The ¿Quién fue? Series
These illustrated biographies are also available in Spanish!
This biography introduces kids to to Lonnie Johnson, who accidentally invented the Super Soaker while working on a part for refrigerators.
Manos que bailan
The story of the Teresa Carreño, a pianist prodigy whose family fled Venezuela and moved to the United States just before the Civil War began. She played so well that she received an invitation from Abraham Lincoln himself, to play at the White House.
Allen Jay y el Ferrocarril Subterráneo
A story about the Underground Railroad, as seen through the eyes of a boy whose family serves as a stop along the way. (Note that this is a historical book for learning about people escaping human enslavement, but not a biography of an African American.)
Simone visita el museo
Although this is a fictional book, it’s a nice introduction to Washington D.C., the Smithsonian Museum of History and African American Culture, as seen through the eyes of a young girl.
ACTIVISM & CIVIL RIGHTS HISTORY
A de Activista
Kids can go through the alphabet in this award-winning book for “families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and everything else that activists believe in and fight for.”
Lado a lado
Kids can get an introduction to famous activists Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, to learn how they led a movement to fight for the rights of farmworkers, often Latino workers who were denied Civil Rights.
Many people don’t know that the first step to desegregating schools in the United States actually happened in California, when a group of Mexican families won a court case in the 1931 Lemon Grove incident. Learn all about it in this bilingual book!
Los superheroes están en todas partes
Vice Presidents Kamala Harris authored this story of finding everyday “superheroes” who are making the world better– including people in our own communities and homes.
Spanish Learner Novels
Here are some novels written for Spanish learners that featured Afro-Latino protagonists or deal with related themes (not all of these authors are POC).
These days, you might come across lots of people saying that it isn’t enough to say you’re “not racist”. For some of you, this is old news. For some, it feels confusing.
Here’s how I see it: It’s a waste of time worrying about whether or not I’m racist.
Instead, I’m acknowledging that I’m part of a culture steeped in racism. So, guess what? It’s my job to recognize where racism has infected me, where bias blinds me, and how I can unlearn and be better– both as an educator and a parent.
I’m grateful for books that help me out, and welcome your feedback and suggestions in the comments below.