What We’re Doing for Hispanic Heritage Month

It’s Hispanic Heritage Month!

Guys, did you know that Hispanic Heritage Month is already almost over? It’s split between two calendar months; running from September 15th – October 15th. Think the timing is strange? Hispanic Heritage month kicks off with the congruence of five Latin American countries’ independence days!

Taking This Opportunity to Branch Out

We do teach Latinx-centered history throughout the year. I’m white, but my husband is Chicano, and his parents were deeply involved in the Chicano Rights and Farmworkers’ Labor movements. So, sometimes, it feels like every month is Latinx/Chicano/Hispanic Heritage month around here, just trying to keep the memory of my kids’ grandparents alive for them. But this year, I realized that we haven’t been making use of this particular 30-day stretch to branch out! There are so many other aspects of Latinx history to consider. And I realized that we truly have a need: I let my kids pick out their own books a lot of the time, and it turns out that their fiction shelf is pretty whitewashed. And I realized that maybe my kids don’t understand why designated months like Hispanic Heritage month are so important! So, we decided to do some intentional learning.

Why are designated months like Hispanic Heritage Month so important, anyway? Well, here’s what I think: Hispanic Heritage Month, Indigenous People’s Month, Black History Month, and others are a way to bring ethnic studies to mainstream K-12 education. I especially think it’s a useful way to bring ethnic studies into classrooms in the lower grades. A lot of the time, teachers (including home educators) are squeamish about discussing racial topics in the elementary classroom. I think that’s a mistake, but that’s not what this blog post is about (we can definitely talk more about that another time).

Sparking Family Conversations

We started our Hispanic Heritage month education by watching Precious Knowledge, which I totally recommend. Released in 2011, it tells the story of the Tuscon Unified School District’s banning of the Mexican-American Studies program at Tuscon Magnet High School. It was engaging for our whole family.

This documentary stimulated some emotional conversation between my husband and I. He noted that in his elementary school (located in a farming town in Central California and attended by a large Chicano population) discouraged the kids from speaking Spanish at school, while in the university town nearby, white families sent their kids to Spanish Immersion programs. Growing up, his schools featured Mexican history as a story that had ended: these cultures used to thrive in Mexico before they were conquered; this is what Mexican culture used to be like before this area became the United States, etc.  There’s just so much to unpack there, and I can’t say that our one conversation and documentary viewing was adequate.

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Our Reading List

That’s why I want something better for my kids: ethnic studies from day one. The history that purposefully takes turns centering the narratives of the many different communities that have had, and has, a part in creating our country as it is now; for better or for worse.

So next up, our reading list. For recommended ages, use your own regular methods of choosing; I know everyone’s kids are different in what they’re ready for.

For my high schooler:

Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
Bodega Dreams by Ernest Quiñonez

For my upper elementary kids:

Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish by Maria Peña
Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez
Wachale! Poetry and Prose About Growing Up Latino In America edited by Ilan Stavans
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Alternately, go to the library and ask your librarian for recommendations by Latinx authors, based on your kids’ ages. Librarians are magic!

I’d love to hear from you in the comments! Let me know if you or your kids have read any of these books, or if you did anything special or educational for Hispanic/Latinx heritage month. Thanks, and happy learning!

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