Best Books for Latino English Learners

In México on 30 April, el Día del Niño is a celebration of children, where youth is honored and adults are reminded of the importance of the caring for and raising of children. The holiday has also been celebrated recently in the United States as Día de los niños/Día de los libros, a day led by the American Library Association (ALA) to celebrate diversity and promote literacy as a “powerful tool for strengthening families and communities,” according to Andrew Medlar, president of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALA, 2016).

With Spanish as the most prominent L1 spoken among ELLs in the United States, it is critical for teachers of ELLs to promote and model cultural inclusivity, as well as enable students to make cognitive and emotional connections to academic content and their lived experiences. One way to achieve this is by including literature that is relevant to their lives and families; as such, this post is dedicated to books that both highlight the magical world of children and the richness of Latino culture. While there are too many books to name here, the following resources can help you begin or add to your collection!

  • The American Library Association (ALA) publishes booklists for Día de los niños, in the ranges of Birth to Pre-K,  and Grades K–2, 3–5, and 6–8. They also have separate lists for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math) that reflect a variety of cultures and languages, as well as a First Book Marketplace, where kids in areas of high poverty can access books at little or no cost.
  • NBC news also published a recent blog about Día de los niños, and highlights books by Pat Mora, Monica Brown, Antonio Ramirez, Rosemary Wells, Natasha Wing, and Carmen Lomas Garza. These beautifully illustrated works cover topics from Día de los niños itself, to the life of Tito Puente, to growing up in indigenous communities, to what childhood is like in Cuba.
  • Another writer who focuses on Latino children, advocacy, and celebrating culture is author and poet Dr. Carmen Tafolla, the 2015 Texas State Poet Laureate. Her works have been recognized with five International Latino Book Awards, two Tomas Rivera Book Awards, two ALA Notable Books, and Top Ten Books for Babies. Popular titles include Fiesta Babies, What Can You Do With a Paleta?, and That’s Not Fair!: Emma Tenayuca’s Struggle for Justice.
  • An important collection for teachers and teacher educators is the new book, Multicultural Literature for Latino Bilingual Children: Their words, their worlds by Clark, Flores, Smith, and Gonzáles (2016).  It is a combination of scholarly research on the importance of culturally relevant literature, as well as resources and references for teachers of ELLs to increase the visibility of Latino culture in their classrooms and curriculum.
  • For a book list that spans preschool through 12th grade, check out Mamiverse’s list of 50 Latino Children’s Books You Should Know.  This inclusive list ranges from first books for babies 3–6 months old, to picture books, to young adult novels.  Teachers might consider adding some of these titles to their reading curriculum, or sharing the list with their students so they have some ideas of what to look for when they go to the library.

If you have suggestions for other books to add to this list, or excellent children’s books that highlight cultures in your English teaching context, please add to the comments!


American Library Association. (2016, April 18). Nation’s libraries advancing diversity and tolerance on Día’s 20th anniversary April 30. [press release]. Retrieved from

About Kristen Lindahl

Kristen Lindahl
Kristen Lindahl holds a PhD in linguistics with a specialization in L2 teacher education from the University of Utah. She is currently assistant professor of bicultural-bilingual studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she teaches pre-service ESL/TESOL educators at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. Dr. Lindahl has taught K–12 and college ESL, and actively pursues consulting and coaching teachers of English learners in public and English language schools around the globe.
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2 Responses to Best Books for Latino English Learners

  1. Ana Lado says:

    I loved reading this. I published a book in 2012 about ‘Teaching beginner ELLs with Picture Books’ and would love to network about the topic of using literature that is culturally relevant for beginners.

  2. Kristen Lindahl Kristen Lindahl says:

    Full citation for Multicultural Literature for Latino Bilingual Children:

    Clark, E. R., Flores, B. B., Smith, H. L., & González, D. A. (2015). Multicultural Literature for
    Latino Bilingual Children: Their words, their worlds. Lanham, MD: Rowman Littlefield Publishing

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