This month I’ve had the privilege to participate as a book reviewer in the Multicultural Children’s Book Day. Since I’m the mother of a bilingual toddler, I requested books to review that would be appropriate both for that age and linguistic level. So, the folks over at Lil’ Libros kindly sent me two fantastic books to check out: Counting with Frida and Lotería: First Words by Patty Rodríguez and Ariana Stein. Lotería introduces young children to basic “first word” vocabulary, while Frida helps them learn their numbers 1-10.
Let me share with you why I think both of these books would make excellent additions to your home library if you’re raising your little ones in both English and Spanish.
- The colorful illustrations – This is the reason I actually purchased Frida last year (way before I knew about the MCBD event). The colors simply pop out at you: bright yellow, rich green, deep orange. And, I love the drawings on each page, so cheerful and whimsical, yet not overpowering or overstimulating for little eyes. I often leave my own copy out on the coffee table instead of hiding it on a bookshelf since it’s so pretty to look at.
- Simple, yet realistic content – This is where my Montessori influence and love for the educational philosophy come in. Montessori believes that children under the age of six years old should be grounded in real life (instead of fantasy) as much as possible. So, in the case of books, that means providing them with content that reflects real life, with real human characters or realistic images of objects from their surroundings. So, for example, in Lotería all of the ten words include objects from nature (rose, tree, moon, rooster, etc.). The same is true of Frida, with the added bonus that all ten words together tell the story of this great artist.
- Sturdy board books – If you’re the parent of an infant or toddler, then you know how much wear and tear our children’s toys and books get, especially the most loved ones. Sometimes it pains me to see the teeth marks and scratches or rips on pages. This is why I love board books for children under three: they can stand up to even the fiercest banging on the floor!
- Reflective of Mexican-American culture – Although the language and culture my Spanish husband and I are passing on to our daughter are different from the language and culture of Mexico, I do want my daughter to be familiar with and respect the diverse Spanish-speaking cultures. Frida Kahlo, for example, is one of the most well-known and respected artists of the Spanish-speaking world, so I’ve loved being able to introduce my daughter to her in an age-appropriate way.
The only aspect of the books that I found distracting relates to a grammatical, or style, issue. I did find the wording of the English in Lotería to be somewhat unnatural in that the translation of each Spanish word to English includes the definite article (“the”) with each noun (e.g., “the tree” or “the heart”). When teaching categories or concepts (which is the purpose of a “first words” book for children) in English, nouns in a general sense do not take the definite article (like they do in Spanish). However, since my daughter cannot read yet, I simply omit the article when reading to her aloud.
Lastly, my daughter and I have enjoyed extending our reading of these two books. She found my own copy of a book of Frida Kahlo paintings and insisted on finding los monos (“monkeys”). I’ve enjoyed showing her some of the (age-appropriate) paintings that I love by my favorite artist. Toddlers are curious to be included in what interests the grown-ups around them. Also, I think that anytime you can expose your children to primary sources (i.e., maps, paintings, musical pieces, etc.), go for it! Even for children as young as two.
For Lotería, again spontaneously as with Frida, I made up a clapping and rhythm game with each word in the book. For example, the word el gallo (“rooster”) has two syllables, so I would clap my hands twice as I read it. Or, for la luna (“moon”), also a two-syllable word, I’d tap her head twice (which eventually turned into a fun tickling game that my daughter loved!). For pre-reading toddlers whose oral output is exploding (around the age of 1-2 years), any activity that draws their attention to the sounds, beats, syllables, and rhythms of words is great!
¡Muchas gracias, Lil’ Libros! for sharing these two wonderful books with me to review. And, if you’re raising a bilingual English-Spanish toddler, why not consider adding these two libros to your collection?
The mission of the Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCCBD) is to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.
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Multicultural Children’s Book Day has 12 amazing Co-Hosts and you can view them here.
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