Our children’s journey to literacy begins before birth. From the moment we pick up our first children’s book and read it to our pregnant bellies, our roles as mother and teacher begin to merge. It is not an easy task, raising literate children, and we often stumble along in this role for which we have not been trained. But a mother’s instinct can often make up for what we lack in knowledge.
For example, there’s a reason that mothers all over the world instinctively croon lullabies to their children. It’s the same reason that children often learn the ABC song before they can recite the alphabet verbally. Music provides a natural and rhythmic way of learning patterns, rhythm, tempo, and melody. It allows young minds to create associations, and helps to form memories. Elementary teachers already know this, which is why our children often come home from school singing short songs like Mary Had a Little Lamb and London Bridge.
Latin America is rich with nursery rhymes and folklore, too. And so, learning these rhymes not only helps our children to become better readers and writers, but it also teaches traditions and culture. Passing on these stories to our children helps to create positive associations with our cultura. How many of us don’t love the sweet and simple rhyme of Los Pollitos Dicen?
Los pollitos dicen, pío, pío, pío,
cuando tienen hambre
cuando tienen frío.
La gallina busca,
el maíz y el trigo,
les dá la comida,
y les presta abrigo.
Bajo sus dos alas,
duermen los pollitos,
hasta el otro día. (Repeat all verses.)
Cuando se levantan,
tengo mucha hambre,
If you are like me, you may have forgotten many of the songs, rhymes, and finger plays you learned as a child. Lucky for us, some very talented Latino writers had the idea to publish books of Spanish nursery rhymes to share with us and preserve our culture for future generations. Below is a short list of my family’s favorite bilingual books for Latino children. Click on the title for an in-depth review of each book.
Mamá Goose: A Latino Nursery Treasury
By Alma Flor Ada, F. Isabel Campoy
Arroz con leche
Popular Songs and Rhymes from Latin America
Selected and Illustrated by Lulu Delacre
Shake It, Morena!
And Other Folklore from Puerto Rico
By Carmen T. Bernier-Grand
Tortillitas para Mamá and Other Nursery Rhymes
(Bilingual Edition in Spanish and English)
By Margot C. Griego
Diez Deditos & Other Play Rhymes and Action Songs from Latin America
By José-Luis Orozco
Illustrated by Elisa Kleven