Although I’m not Latino, I feel a strong connection to all things Latin American. My wife and in-laws are from Panama, and therefore Latin culture is something that we want to immerse our children in culturally and linguistically, so they recognize and appreciate their maternal roots. How do we do this when we’re thousands of miles away from that culture? The Library has plenty of resources to help.
There are lots of kids’ Spanish music CDs, and ones for grownups, too!
Spanish Bop 15 Favorite Children’s Songs – Produced as part of the “Little Pim” language learning series, this has excellent nursery rhymes and catchy kids songs to sing along with.
Sabor! Spanish Learning Songs – Another title from the “Little Pim” collection, Sabor! has great easy songs for singing along in Spanish.
Putumayo Presents Latin Playground – Putumayo, which produces a wide variety of global music for kids and adults, puts together a collection of kid-friendly songs from throughout Latin America.
I’ve found kids end up loving Latin American music that’s not “for kids” anyway. Check out awesome artists like Marc Anthony, Celia Cruz, Ruben Blades, Aventura, Fania All Stars and many more for some great music that will get your kids dancing too! Also, you can tune in to Pittsburgh’s Latin music radio show, La Rumba, on Thursdays between 7-9 pm on 88.3 FM or WRCT.
My kids are 3 and 5, so these choices are geared towards that demographic.
Maria Had a Little Llama – A cute rendition of Mary Had a Little Lamb. This story has both English and Spanish text. The illustrations are excellent, noting the indigenous dress of Peru and matching backgrounds.
Don’t Say a Word, Mamá = No digas nada, Mamá – Another excellent bilingual tale; the illustrations have a Mexican style. The story of two sisters and their love for their mother, peppered with traditional Mexican food ingredients like corn, chiles and tamales. Great illustrations!
My Grandma = Mi abuelita – A cute story about a child and their family traveling to visit their grandma in a different country. Excellent bilingual story and the backdrop could work for any country in Latin America.
No discussion of culture would be complete without my favorite element, food! Now, food in Latin America, like most other things in Latin America, is incredibly diverse, and I don’t claim to know a lot about the cuisines of all Latin American countries, because I don’t. Although there are certain common themes in Latin American dishes (tamales, empanadas, rice, corn) even those themes are very different country to country. Here are some awesome cookbooks that contain recipes my kids will actually eat.
Secrets of Colombian Cooking – There are actually no Panamanian cookbooks in the library system, yet. But Panama’s neighbor, Colombia, has very similar gastronomy. This cookbook contains recipes of things kids will love like empanadas, sancocho (a hearty soup), arroz con coco (rice with coconut) and desserts like flan, tres leches and rice pudding. This is definitely an adult’s cookbook, but kids will love to eat the delicious food.
Mexico – This is a kids’ cookbook. The recipes are simple and fun to make. I love the homemade tortilla recipe, and what kid doesn’t love using a rolling pin on some dough? Other delicious dishes include picadillo and fried bean cakes.
Cool Mexican Cooking: Fun and Tasty Recipes For Kids – I love this series of cookbooks for kids. Similar to the title above, also easy-to-make and fun dishes that kids will eat.
Spanish Language Learning Resources for kids
Even though my wife and I both try to always speak Spanish at home, and even though we try to travel to Panama every year, oftentimes our kids don’t want to speak Spanish. I don’t fret though because I know the library can help! The library has plenty of resources to help you and your children learn languages (I wrote about them a little over a year ago.) Here are some of the children’s resources again:
Little Pim – Online videos you can watch with your child that teach basic vocabulary. Available in additional languages than just Spanish.
Muzzy Online – Similar to the above mentioned, cartoon videos that teach your kids the basics of the language.
Speak Spanish with Dora & Diego! – Audio recording paired with books that help your child learn with beloved characters Dora & Diego.
Community organizations and events
Throughout the year Pittsburgh’s Latin American community has many family events that are excellent ways to expose kids to Latin American culture. A great place to find info on these events is the Latin American Culture Union’s calendar. Some of our favorite events include the LACU’s summer picnic in August and Pitt’s Latin American and Caribbean Festival every March. These events often have music, food, dance, activities for kids and much more. They’re also a great way to meet some neighbors and celebrate Pittsburgh’s diversity.
If you’re bringing up your kids to be bicultural, how do you do it? What tools do you use to keep your kids close to their roots, whatever those roots may be? How do you expose your children to cultures other than your own? I’d love to hear from you!