Who doesn’t love a celebration? Hispanic Heritage Month is a wonderful way to promote a greater understanding and respect of Hispanic Americans that have made significant contributions to American life. During September 15 – October 15 we recognize the importance of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States. Here is a little history behind how the celebration came to be.
It started as a week-long celebration, first authorized in 1968 when Congress adopted a resolution asking the president of the United States to designate National Hispanic Heritage week. Congressman George Brown of California introduced House Joint Resolution 1299 authorizing the president to proclaim “National Hispanic Heritage Week.” President Lyndon B. Johnson signed this into law on September 17, 1968. In 1988, Senator Paul Simon introduced a resolution to extend the week-long celebration to a month. President Ronald Reagan signed this into law August 17, 1988. The 15th marks the independence days of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile, and Belize Independence days are on the 16th, 18th, and 21st respectively.
The observation of Hispanic Heritage Month allows everyone to celebrate the beauty and richness of Hispanic culture and recognize the important contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans. Sometimes people equate heritage celebrations with cuisine, music, dress, and dance, and while this is important it is equally important that you use this time to engage students and staff in rich, deep, meaningful learning experiences. You can help others understand that a Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration should be much more than historical figures on a bulletin board or student PowerPoint presentations on countries and culture. This is a chance for educators to provide experiences that connect students to the culture, enable them to build knowledge, and construct meaning for themselves. You, as a school librarian, are uniquely positioned to serve as a facilitator for these encounters, which should ideally last longer than the month and be infused throughout the school year.
Here are a few suggestions on how you can celebrate the month in your school.
- Analyze primary source documents Public Law 90 – 498 and Public Law 100-402 to promote rich discussions about the history of Hispanic Heritage Month. Utilize the analysis tools on the Docs Teach National Archives website.
- Conduct an author study. Let your students help you decide which author(s) to select. Possible choices include Julia Alvarez, Meg Medina, Sandra Cisneros, and Pam Munoz Ryan.
- Study works of art, music, and dance. Allow your students to guide you in the selection of who and which works you will focus on. You can select from historical to contemporary figures.
- Feature a different Hispanic poet each day. Incorporate poetry in your morning announcements or broadcast. The book cover art featured for this post Bookjoy, Wordjoy written by Pat Mora and Raul Colon (Lee and Low) is a collection of poems that inspires and incorporate both English and Spanish.
- Take a virtual field trip. Visit Google Arts & Culture (more details provided below) and give students an immersive experience. You can present this on your interactive white board to a whole group or allow students to visit places via their mobile devices.
- Highlight titles from the following award winners. You can rotate displays, offer book talks, and/or read books from the following awards:
Americas Award http://www.claspprograms.org/americasaward
Pura Belpre’ Awards http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/belpremedal/belprepast
Tomas Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Awards http://www.education.txstate.edu/ci/riverabookaward/
- Explore the biographies of significant historical figures, as well as modern-day heroes and sheroes from all areas, the arts, music, politics, business, education, sports, science, technology, etc. For example, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, former CEO of Coca Cola Roberto Crispulo Goizueta, environmental scientist Elisa Niebla, and scientist George Castro.
- Watch the Hispanic Heritage Awards sponsored by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation on September 12, 2018. The awards may be broadcast at a later date. For more information on the awards, visit https://hispanicheritage.org/programs/leadership/hispanic-heritage-awards/.
- Feature magazines in print or digitally if you have access to Flipster https://flipster.ebsco.com/ or RBDigital https://www.rbdigital.com to showcase Spanish language editions of popular magazines such as High Five Bilingue (Highlights), Muy Interesante Junior Mexico, Babybug en Español, or Hola!
Need more inspiration and information? Here are additional links to visit as you develop your activities. All the resources listed are free to access and use!
Colorin Colorado offers bilingual resources, information, and activities.
Hispanic Heritage Month: Booklists for Young Adults provides extensive lists by genre and topic.
Hispanic Heritage Booklists. These lists are arranged by topic and include history and biographies, growing up Latino, family stories, cultural traditions, holidays, fairy tales, folktales, poems and more.
Google Arts & Culture created by the Google Cultural Institute is an expansive digital archive of U.S. Latino art, culture, and history. The collection explores Latino history and culture from the 1500s to the present day. Here students can explore artwork, influential figures, dance, U.S. Latino murals (featured is Diego Rivera), food and cooking, cultural traditions, the LGBTQ experience, and contemporary issues such as deportation. You can take a virtual tour of neighborhoods like Old San Juan and Ybor City, as well as museums and the Cesar Chavez National Monument. The site is interactive and very engaging.
Latinxs in Kid Lit provides a wealth of information about Latinx children’s literature, including but not limited to, book reviews, booklists, book talks, teaching activities and interviews with Latinx authors.
The Library of Congress Hispanic Heritage Month. The site curates content into the following areas: social media, art and architecture, the era of exploration, culture and ethnography, economics, government, politics and law, poetry and literature, history, music, resource guides for national archives, national gallery of art, and park services.
PBS Learning Media Latino Broadcasting Collection. The site provides an extensive collection of educator guides, lesson plans, and materials to engage students with the rich history of the Latino experience.
Primary Sources on Docs Teach from the National Archives provides a rich collection of primary sources from various eras, including transcripts, photographs, and much more.
Smithsonian Latino Center features the contributions of the Latino community in the arts, history, national culture, and scientific achievement.
Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum includes an interactive teacher guide in English and Spanish, offers 2D and 3D collections, simulations and virtual worlds related to the Latino Cultural Heritage.
Author: Michelle Easley
Michelle Easley is the author of How to Increase Diversity in School Library Collections and Programs. Michelle is a national presenter, diversity and library advocate, consultant and speaker. Michelle spends her free time volunteering with homeless youth.