Video of the Week: The Parrot Tico Tango

Since we are talking poetry this week, we wanted to include a video of one of our favorite audiobooks that features rhyming verse…set to music! The Parrot Tico Tango is written by Anna Witte, and the audio was created by one of our favorite voiceover actors, Brian Amador. He and his family can be heard singing the tunes to clever music. My kids love it!

Published by Barefoot Books, this title is available in English or Spanish (also done by the bilingual Amador family).

A Spanish Poem by F. Isabel Campoy

Canción para este milenio:
Latinos en los Estados
F. Isabel Campoy

Horizonte 1
Nacimos envueltos en sol
y del sol
heredamos la risa.

Horizonte 2
Nacimos cerca de los bosques
y de los árboles
heredamos la generosidad

Horizonte 3
Nacimos en islas blancas
y de sus mares
heredamos la solidaridad.

Horizonte 4
Nacimos en pueblos de luz y miel
y de su belleza
heredamos la humildad.

Horizonte 5
Nacimos en ciudades
y de sus multitudes
heredamos la sabiduría.

Horizonte 6
Nacimos en familias honradas
y de su unidad
heredamos la fuerza.

Horizonte 7
Nacimos bajo pirámides
construidas por nuestros padres
y de ellos heredamos el conocimiento.

Horizonte 8
Nacimos honestos
poderosos y humildes,
y hoy caminamos juntos
bajo un nuevo sol,
hacia un horizonte compartido.
Todos unidos.

Margarita’s Poetry Picks


by *Margarita Engle

Here are just a few
of my favorite poetry books
old and new,
to add to our summer
because la poesía
has always been such a grand part
of our wide-winged culture’s
powerful heart.

So fly into the world
of a book!

Happy summer!
¡Feliz verano!


Ada, Alma Flor and Campoy, Isabel. 2011. Ten Little Puppies; Diez Perritos. New York: Rayo/ Harper Collins.

Alarcón, Francisco. 1998. From The Bellybutton of the Moon and Other Summer Poems/Del Ombligo de la Luna y Otros Poemas de Verano. San Francisco: Children’s Book Press.

Argueta, Jorge Tetl. 2010. Arroz con leche; Rice Pudding. Toronto: Groundwood.

Delacre, Lulu. 2004. Arrorró Mi Niño: Latino Lullabies and Gentle Games. New York: Scholastic.

González, Lucía. 1994. The Bossy Gallito. New York: Scholastic.

Herrera, Juan Felipe. 2001. Calling the Doves/El Canto de las Palomas. San Franscisco: Children’s Book Press.

Mora, Pat. 2007. Yum! Mmmm! ¡Qué Rico! America’s Sproutings. New York: Lee & Low.

Tafolla, Carmen. 2008. What Can You Do With A Rebozo? ¿Qué Puedes Hacer Con Un Rebozo? Berkeley: Tricycle Press.


Bernier-Grand, Carmen T. 2009. Diego; Bigger Than Life. New York: Marshall Cavendish.

Cofer, Judith Ortiz. 2004. Call Me María; A Novel in Letters, Poems, and Prose. New York: Orchard.

Herrera, Juan Felipe. 1998. Laughing Out Loud, I Fly: Poems in English and Spanish. New York: Harper Collins

McCall, Guadalupe García. 2011. Under the Mesquite. New York: Lee & Low.

Soto, Gary. 1992. Neighborhood Odes. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

These are just a few examples—for a more complete selection of multicultural poetry, ask your librarian, or visit:

Vardell, Sylvia. 2012. The Poetry Teacher’s Book of Lists. Princeton, NJ: Pomelo Books.
The Poetry Friday anthology series, published by Pomelo Press.


*Brief bio
Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of many books for young people, including the Newbery Honor-winning verse novel, The Surrender Tree, Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom. Her most recent books are: The Lightning Dreamer, Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist (Harcourt; ages 10 and up), Mountain Dog (Holt; ages 8 and up), and When You Wander, a Search and Rescue Dog Story (Holt, ages 2 and up).

Latino Children’s Poetry Week: The Value of Poetry for Latino Children

This week, we’re happy to dedicate our site to Latino children’s poetry and the valuable role it plays in their literacy development and appreciation of their heritage. We’re pleased to begin with the following article on a brief history of the role our heritage has played in poetry across time and places, followed by a short poem just for children as written by the talented poets and writing team of Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy.

Spanish Influence On the History of Poetry

The first written testimonies of our language were verses. They were called jarchas, verses written in Spanish at the end of poems in Arabic. What powerful symbolism! Poetry has been a great contribution of our culture to the World, and Hispanic culture has been formed by fusing many others.

Our oldest poetic expressions were created orally. The Poema del Cid, celebrates the deeds of a warrior who was also husband and father, kind and generous. Mothers and grandmothers have put their babies to sleep with beautiful poetry, fragments from Medieval romances, kept alive for centuries through this oral transmission.

Spanish voices reached international acclaim during the Spanish Golden Age when poets like Garcilaso, Cervantes, Lope de Vega and Góngora were recited, quoted, and imitated throughout Europe. Soon after, on the other side of the Atlantic, new voices began using the same language to express different realities.

None stronger than Sor Juana, both extraordinarily gifted and learned, who wrote the most daring verses of the XVII century: “Hombres necios que acusáis…”

Silly, you men, so very adept
at wrongly blaming womankind,
not seeing you’re alone to blame
for the faults you plant in woman’s mind.

Spanish voices have used melodious words and powerful rhymes to share their convictions: Con los pobres de la tierra quiero yo mi suerte echar [I will share my destiny with the wretched of the Earth] assures José Martí; also to express their pride in their ancestry, as when the Cuban Nicolás Guillén and the Puerto Rican Palés Matos sing about their African roots; poetry used to invite all children to hold hands in a “ronda de niños” as Gabriela Mistral writes from her native Chile; written also to express the nuances of love, and exalt both the magnificence of Macchu Picchu and the quality of the smallest of things, as Pablo Neruda did from Isla Negra. Poetry has also found a way to make the world see Spain, through the delicate gypsy eyes of Federico García Lorca.

The Value of Poetry for Latino Children

Some of the most important poets of all times have written in Spanish. Our children deserve to know them all. Poetry is children’s best friend. Once a poem is memorized it stays with us forever, a wealth no one can take away, a companion ready to give comfort, hope, laughter, inspiration whenever needed. Poetry can broaden children’s vocabulary with new words they will remember supported by rhymes, rhythm, imagery and feelings. Let us try saying, whispering, sharing, singing a new poem tonight, under the stars!

~ F. Isabel Campoy

Unexpected Holiday

© 2013 Alma Flor Ada

It seemed a day like any other,
but hotter.
The air-conditioning not working well.
-nothing to do,
no one to play with,
the TV so dull,
as if I‘d already seen
everything it had to show
between those ads
for cars or drinks
shampoos or beauty creams.
might as well get
on with my homework.
I open the book
my teacher made me choose
at the library
without knowing
what’s happening to me
I’m lost in a jungle,
traveling up to the sky,
worried and concerned–
frightened, even–
for a boy and girl
determined to save each other
from the greatest of dangers.
Where did the boring day go?
An unexpected,
and fantastic,
had been waiting all along
inside the covers
of a book.

Pressed for Time and Money? 3 Places to Read Short Stories Online

By Carmen Amato

Time and money. If we had unlimited supplies of both we might spend all of both buying and reading books.

But if time and money are in short supply you can still keep reading by going online to find short stories. You can find some great reads by Latino short story writers if you know where to look.

Here are three places to start:

1. The New Yorker magazine publishes the best of contemporary fiction but only older archives are available to the general public on its website. Here are 3 wonderful short stories by noted author Cristina Henriquez: Lunch, Carnaval Las Tablas, and Ashes that previously appeared in the print version of the magazine. They all reflect her Panamanian roots.

2. The website for all things Mexico has a collection of fiction short stories tucked away and discoverable by using the site’s tags. The stories run a gamut of styles and subjects but have one thing in common—they are all related to Mexico and all well written. The format of the website is nice and clean, making the stories easy to select from the main page and easy to read when fully displayed. The Sanchez Ghost was particularly good.

3. The Rio Grande Review is a non-profit bilingual literary magazine run by students of the MFA in Creative Writing at The University of Texas at El Paso. The website contains an archive all of the editions as downloadable PDFs. Each edition is in both Spanish and English, making for a lengthy PDF (latest edition is 400 pages!) so this is best read online rather than attempting to print it out. This link leads directly to the archive page.

Bonus Suggestions:

While not a strictly Latino-themed story site, National Public Radio’s 3 minute story project is an amazing collection of stories sent in by listeners, based on NPR’s weekly writing prompts. The only requirement is that stories must be original fiction and able to be read in 3 minutes. Click on the different “Rounds” on the right side of the page to load stories that correspond to that particular writing prompt. But beware! This site is highly addictive!

If you read in Spanish, enjoy, a well-curated collection of short stories in Spanish from a wide variety of countries. The website is extremely simple and doesn’t offer much in the way of a visual draw, but just lists editions. Click on any edition and it brings up a table of contents along with the country the author is from. The title is a link to the story. FYI—I tried Google Translate on one of the stories and it gave me a readable copy but much of the poetry in the words was lost.

Finally, I discovered Eyes of the Blue Dog by Gabriel Garcia Marquez on the fiction.eserver website. This link is to the story and this link is to the general archive page for short stories. A hidden gem!

Do you have a source for online short stories? Please share it with our readers in the comments!

Carmen Amato writes thrillers and mysteries as well as a blog about encounters, choices, and travel at CLIFF DIVER, the first book in her Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco was praised by Kirkus Reviews as “consistently exciting” and the next book in that series, HAT DANCE, will be released later this summer.

In HAT DANCE, Acapulco detective Emilia Cruz will risk a dance with the devil in a desperate attempt to track down an arsonist and find a missing girl. But as Acapulco burns, the dance will come with a price that no honest cop should have to pay.

Check out all Carmen’s books at and connect with her on Twitter @CarmenConnects. Her Pinterest boards illustrate her books and can be found at


Join us tonight on Twitter as we partner with LATISM to discuss the issue of Latino children’s literacy and how we can use technology and online programs to help reach more families and improve our kids’s literacy skills.

Just follow the hashtags #Latism and #L4LL tonight from 9 pm ET to 10 pm ET on Twitter. Chime in and share your thoughts!

RSVP here.

We hope to “see” you there!

Video of the Week: Author René Colato Laínez – Let’s Read! ¡A leer!

Have you been following our series of Latino author videos? We are so lucky to have such great writers willing to create videos to promote Latino children’s literacy for us!

Today, author René Colato Laínez has put together another super creative video for the bilingual families participating in our summer reading program. We hope you love it as much as we do!

Tips for Teaching a Child with Down Syndrome to Read

Eliana T daughter

The following is a guest post by Eliana Tardio, publisher of and mother of two children with Down syndrome.

Years ago, it was hard to believe that children with Down syndrome would be able to read. Thankfully, times have changed. Now, it’s great for me to share from my personal experience that my son who is 9 years old is already reading and my daughter who’s 6 has received an “Emerging Reader” award this year.
Both of my kids have Down syndrome and if you ask them, I guess they would say that growing up is an awesome experience, including learning to read. There are 3 principles that guide my path as I teach my kids anything new, but especially when teaching my children with Down syndrome how to read:

1. Respecting their unique timing

Something that I have always empowered my kids with is a celebration of their own abilities. I’ve taught them to be proud of their achievements without comparison. Respecting their own timing and letting them learn at their own pace tells them that we appreciate their effort and that life is not measured by results but for our desire to always do our best.

2. Teaching them to enjoy the path of learning

Learning should never be forced or achieved under pressure. Learning is a joy, and that’s a gift that we should be able to share with our kids; teaching them to enjoy the path of learning and feeling able to open their world to the letters and words that will eventually come.

3. Learning that life is not a competition

Another great lesson that comes when raising a child with special needs of any type is that life is not a competition. Learning is not about collecting A’s at school or trying to demonstrate that your child is better than anyone else’s. This is all about providing your child with the tools he may need for developing the most of his abilities, no matter how limited they may seem, and not comparing with others.

Eliana T daughter

How to teach them to read:
As with any other child, your child with special needs starts learning as a baby. You can follow these steps to familiarize him or her with literature.

  • Read to your child in utero.
  • Choose a favorite book and read it for him over and over again.
  • Give him special time to listen to you read while he’s sitting in your lap and following the pictures.
  • Promote his interest by using cardboard books that he can manipulate.
  • Go for simple-looking books in the beginning. Black and white books are sometimes less overwhelming, allowing your child to focus his attention more easily.
  • Single words books are great for association and for learning by repetition. Simple is sometimes better.
  • Provide her with subjects that are interesting for her. The same as any other child, yours will get excited and motivated for the characters and plot lines they enjoy most.

Something important to keep in mind when you raise a child with Down syndrome or speech delays of any kind, is that the speech errors they make may create insecurity in them. They may be shy to share what they know or be able to express much less than they understand. Be patient, reward them often, and celebrate every bit of progress.

My son reads stories for my daughter at bedtime, but used to be very shy about demonstrating his abilities at school. Nobody believed me when I said he knew how to read until I taped him and sent a copy to his teacher. The teacher set up a very special moment for him and played the video for the whole classroom! Ever since then, he’s been unafraid to use his voice in front of others. His language is still developing but feeling that people celebrate his efforts has empowered him to keep reading while showing off all that he’s able to do.


Eliana Tardío, is the mother of Emir & Ayelén, both with Down syndrome. Eliana works as a Family Resource and Marketing Specialist for the Early Intervention program of Southwest Florida. She writes for several online publications about her experience as the Latina mom of two kids with special needs, providing what she calls “the most important advice for anyone: Hope in love.” Named as one of the Top 100 Moms Bloggers by, and one of the 7 Most Inspirational Latina Moms by Café Mom, Eliana’s advocacy work has garnered her many awards, not only in the USA, but around the world.

Reading and Children with Autism

The following is a guest post by one of L4LL’s original co-founders, Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, and is part of our series on literacy and children with special needs.

Before my son, Norrin, was born, I knew that I wanted to emphasize reading. There were nights during my pregnancy when I sat in his room, rocking in the rocker and reading Goodnight Moon. I remember looking around the room, rubbing the swell of my belly and imagining what motherhood would be like.

Norrin was born and reading became part of our routine. Night after night, day after day. But even though I read every night, at two-years-old, Norrin still had no language. After he was diagnosed with autism and we started working with therapists and special education teachers – reading remained the constant in our hectic lives.

One of the therapists suggested we read the same book, three times a day for a month. The book was Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? And that’s exactly what I did. I read it in the morning, when I came home from work and before bed. I pointed to the pictures and asked questions. Norrin still had no language but he could understand. I’d use my hand to guide his, helping him point to pictures and talking about the different animals and colors.

It’s been five years since Norrin’s autism diagnosis and reading is still a priority. It’s how we best connect. I read every night. And now that Norrin has language and can read at almost grade level, we take turns reading.

Sometimes introducing new books can be a challenge, since Norrin often wants to read the same book. Here is what has worked for Norrin and me:

  • We read two to three books a night. One I pick. One Norrin picks. And sometimes a book I’ve never read to Norrin before.
  • Norrin isn’t always interested in my book selections; which is why I read those first. I like to build up to the one he wants. For the most part I’m successful.
  • When choosing books for a special needs child, it’s important to consider their reading level and personal interests rather than their age level.
  • I buy books that I know will appeal to Norrin. For example, since I know Norrin enjoys Dinosaurs Love Underpants, I purchased another book called WhenDinosaurs Came with Everything.
  • I tend to pick books with bright pictures and few sentences per page. If the text takes up most of the page, then I know it’s probably not the right kind of book Norrin will enjoy. (Not now anyway.)
  • When introducing a new book, I read it every night for about a week or two. Even if Norrin shows no interest. Even if he’s running around the room. I like him to hear it and eventually he gets used to it.
  • Books with CDs are great. I like to play the CD and let Norrin look through the book.
  • Interact while reading. I love asking Norrin questions when I’m reading a book. If Norrin cannot guess I take his hand and point to pictures.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you read one book or ten – all that matters is that you are reading with your child.


Lisa Quinones-Fontanez is a secretary by day, blog writer by night and Mami round the clock. When Lisa’s son, Norrin, was diagnosed with autism in May 2008, she found herself in a world she did not understand. In 2010 Lisa founded the blog AutismWonderland. AutismWonderland is an award winning blog that chronicles her family journey with autism and shares local resources for children/families with special needs.

In May 2013, Lisa graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from The City College of New York. She is also a contributing writer at and AutismWonderland is #10 on the Babble 2012 Top 30 Autism Blogs for Parents. And at the 2012 LATISM National Conference, Lisa was recognized as the Best Latina Health Blogger.

In between work, blogging and advocating for Norrin, Lisa is also working on a historical fiction novel A Thousand Branches. A chapter excerpt (The Last Time of Anything) from A Thousand Branches received Honorable Mention in Glimmertrain’s Family Matters October 2010 competition.

Find Your Latino Roots: 10 Must-Read Non-Fiction Books

by Carmen Amato

Our lives are not just shaped by where we are and what we’re doing right now. We’re ultimately shaped by our family’s stories and the cultural experiences that provided their framework.

But sometimes we don’t know the full background of events that impacted them or want to know if others have taken the same journey of exploration. Here are 10 non-fiction books, some well-known and others less so, that take us on those journeys.

1. My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
This memoir by the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice has been a best-seller for weeks and justifiably so. Justice Sotomayor writes with great honesty and feeling about her upbringing, ties to Puerto Rico, academic achievements, as well as professional milestones.

2. Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America by Gustavo Arellano
If you love Arellano’s Ask a Mexican column, you’ll love the book, which is more of an anthem of discovery than anything else. It combines history, food writing, personal anecdotes, and more to make this a fun and informative read.

3. The Border: Exploring the U.S.-Mexican Divide by David Danelo
Danelo, a former US Marine, walked the US-Mexican border and recounted his experiences and lessons in this book. Half travelogue and half commentary, it is a fast and absorbing read.

4. No Lost Causes by Alvaro Uribe
This memoir of Colombia’s former president, the man widely credited with bringing his country back from the brink, is a study in leadership as well as a snapshot in time of that country.

5. Just Like Us by Helen Thorpe
In Denver, Colorado, four high school friends face the future. Two are documented and two are not. What happens to them is a true and fascinating read by Thorpe who is a journalist but also the wife of Denver’s mayor at the time of the book’s events.

6. The Jaguar Smile by Salman Rushdie
Winner of the Booker Prize, this slim volume recounts Rushdie’s travels through Nicaragua in 1986, at the height of the civil war. It is a unique glimpse of the country from a surprising and articulate viewer.

7. Waiting for Snow in Havana by Carlos Eire
In 1962, when Eire was 11, he was one of 14,000 children airlifted out of Cuba to escape the revolution. His story of a childhood in Cuba as the revolution gathered is both poignant and poetic.

8. Take Me With You by Carlos Frías
A Cuban-American journalist discovers his father’s roots while on assignment in Havana. One of the best memoirs I’ve read to date.

9. Nobody’s Son by Luis Alberto Urrea
Urrea is a prolific and excellent writer but his own biography of growing up between two cultures might be his best work. With dark humor, he tells of the clashes between parents of opposing cultures and his own search for who he is.

10. When I was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago
The fiction writer chronicles her early life in Puerto Rico and her move with her mother to New York at a young age. Santiago will encounter a new language, a anew school, translate for her mother at the welfare office, and eventually make it to Harvard.

5 Bonus Books

For those looking for more scholarly works, try:
Blood of Brothers by Stephen Kinzer
Published by the David Rockefeller Center, this detailed book is probably the definitive work in English of Nicaragua’s civil war. Kinzer writes from a journalists’ perspective rather than a political one, making the book well worth a read.

Divorcing the Dictator by Frederick Kempe
Journalist Kempe shows both on-the-ground reporting chops and a huge volume of follow-on research in this book about the US love-hate affair with Panamanian strongman General Noriega. Probably the best book out there on Noriega (currently in jail) and what made him tick.

Open Veins of Latin America by Edward Galleano
With a foreword by Isabel Allende, this book delivers as promised, with a sweeping view of Latin American history. The book is organized around the theme of exploitation, making for a different style and emphasis than most history books.

Path Between the Seas by David McCullough
McCullough’s brings his consummate historian’s skills to the issue of the building of the Panama Canal. The book examines every facet of the canal, from the doomed French efforts to Teddy Roosevelt’s influence in establishing the new country of Panama.

Distant Neighbors by Alan Riding
Just about every book about the US and Mexico gets compared to this book and so far it remains the definitive work for many. It is not so much a political discussion as it is a cultural one. Riding, a journalist, writes with humor, facts, and an excellent notion of life on both sides of the border.

Do you have a non-fiction book to recommend? Please share it in the comments with our readers!


Carmen Amato recharged her Kindle twice and found 5 must-read books during the writing of this guest post. She is the author of political thriller THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY and the Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco. Both draw on her experiences living in Mexico and Central America where she discovered the best coffee on earth. Her next book, HAT DANCE: An Emilia Cruz Novel is due out later this summer.
For more check out:
Find her books at