We are so happy and blessed that our latest book ¡Todos a Celebrar! A Hispanic Customs and Traditions Alphabet Book has been very warmly received and recognized. We wanted to elaborate more on how and why this book came to fruition. As our company mission states, we feel that there is a great need for many more books where Hispanic children can see themselves portrayed in the literature. This is known as cuturally relevant literature.
Our book includes popular customs and traditions that many Hispanic children are familiar with. We wanted them to connect with the content by seeing other children of similar ages that look like them and participate in activities just like they do. In almost all the pictures in the book, we used local children from Texas to demonstrate the tradition or custom discussed in each page. In this way, we felt the authenticity would show through. For example, in our entry for the letter P, piñata, the photo was taken at an actual birthday party held at a local community park where many other children have held their own piñata parties as well.
Numerous studies continue to show the lack of diversity in today’s book offerings. (See our blog post on this here.) We want to contribute nuestro pedacito (our part) and make a difference, most especially in increasing the number of bilingual, non-fiction picture books that address Hispanic customs and traditions.
Although there are many beautiful traditions inherent to Hispanic culture, unfortunately we were not able to include many as this is an alphabet book, not a dictionary. Thus, we made the decision to include as many customs and traditions that are celebrated in many Spanish-speaking countries like the abrazo for example and the quinceañera.
Culture includes surface culture (what we see and experience) and deep culture (who and how we are). For this book, we feel it is just as important to reflect deep culture like values (e.g. the use of usted), religious values (e.g. bendición), and beliefs (e.g. mal de ojo) along with surface culture (celebrations/holidays, customs, dances, and games.)
A few other important considerations we took into account while developing this book were the use of boys and girls in non-traditional roles to avoid stereotypes (e.g. girl breaking the piñata, and boys making tamales), as well as the portrayal of Hispanic children of different skin tones to show the diversity that exists. Additionally, in almost all the pages, we show children, because we feel they better express the idea being conveyed.
We urge teachers and parents as they read this book to elaborate on the ideas. We offer free downloadable activities including an Album de cultura and spelling and vocabulary lists they can take advantage of as well. Many other possibilities exist for implementing this book as a resource. Please do share your experiences with us as well!
This project was, by far, our most daunting to date, having taken almost two years to complete, including many hours of photo-shoots, edits and rewrites. A total of 38 children participated in this project. We are most appreciative to them and to their parents for granting their permission and for being so supportive. Indeed, this will be a most special memory of their childhood.
It is our sincere hope that this book helps all children learn more about the rich and beautiful Hispanic culture and increase their empathy and understanding. As the title states, this book is a celebration of Hispanic culture, and it is sure to spark the curiosity and enjoyment of children everywhere.