Reading books is a great way to practice a language – even if it’s your own. It exposes you to a greater vocabulary range than what we normally use in everyday conversations. And because you’re able to read a book as slowly and as many times as you wish, it’s easier to get your head around the words, their meaning and to memorize them too.
Even children can benefit from the exercise: Not only can they develop a love for books, it’s also a way to open their minds to other cultures and traditions. This is why reading a book in Spanish to your children, even at a very young age, can become the ticket to travel across many Spanish-speaking countries. It may also enable you to approach more difficult topics, such as death and grief. With so many books for kids in Spanish from around the world, we have picked five titles to help you make your choice.
- Un Castillo de Libros
- ¡Tortuguita, Vení Bailá!
- La luz de Lucía
- Juan Bobo Busca Trabajo
- El espíritu del Tío Fernando
1. Un Castillo de Libros
Penned by Colombian author Susana Aristizábal, Un Castillo de Libros (A Castle of Books) is a love letter to books. The castle of the title is a library welcoming children as well as animals! The beautiful illustrations and simple story open the doors to fun adventures to live through reading and imagination. Written for three to seven-year-olds, this is a perfect book to entice children to read more books.
2. ¡Tortuguita, Vení Bailá!
¡Tortuguita, Vení Bailá! (Little turtle, come dance!) is a compilation of traditional oral stories, songs, lullabies and games from Colombia. Several Colombian children are welcomed in five different indigenous towns, where they discover local ancient stories and customs.
The author, Carmenza Botero Arango, designed her book for educational purposes, introducing children to these traditional stories and encouraging them to value and respect indigenous cultures. This is why each piece of content is told in a native language alongside their Spanish translation.
3. La luz de Lucía
La luz de Lucía (Lucia’s light) is the story of Lucia, the youngest member of a family of fireflies who is too little to light up the forest. But one night, her time finally comes. Feeling ready, Lucia heads off to the forest. But something still stops her from shining a light as bright as everyone else. Lucia is then discouraged and unwilling to try again. But thanks to the support of her family, Lucia learns to trust herself and finally let her inner light shine out.
A critical and popular success, La luz de Lucía won two prizes in the USA in 2016: the Gellet Burgess Award – Society & Culture at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards. Margarita Del Mazo wrote it for children as young as three, to tell them not to be afraid of shining with their own, unique light to brighten up the world around them.
4. Juan Bobo Busca Trabajo
Juan Bobo Busca Trabajo (Juan Bobo is looking for work) is the funny tale of Juan Bobo, one of the most popular Puerto Rican folk heroes, searching for a job in various workplaces – from a farm to a grocery shop. But once you know bobo means fool in Spanish, you can expect a series of antics, each funnier than the last. No matter how easy and clear the task at hand is, Juan Bobo never fails to make a mess of it! Awarded with the Pura Belpré Honor, this is one of the most beloved kids’ books in Spanish from Marisa Marisa. Hugely entertaining, it’s bound to make your children (and even yourself) laugh out loud.
5. El espíritu del Tío Fernando
After the antics of Juan Bobo, El espíritu del Tío Fernando (The Spirit of Uncle Fernando) delves into a much more serious topic. The story is set on the Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico. A young boy named Nando helps his mother prepare for the day by setting the altar in honor of his uncle Fernando. As they busy themselves, she tells him they will go to the cemetery to visit his uncle’s spirit.
Once the altar is ready, Nando goes to the market to get special things that remind him of his uncle. While he browses the stalls, he remembers everything he loved about him. And as he listens to street artists singing about life and death, he can’t help wondering how he will recognize Fernando’s spirit. Ultimately, Nando finds reassurance in the knowledge that his uncle is happy because he has not been forgotten.
El espíritu del Tío Fernando is a great book to learn more about the Mexican customs around the Day of the Dead and to introduce your child to the difficult topics around death, grieving and remembrance.
Hit the books for children in Spanish
The five titles in our list give you an inkling of the wide and rich range of books for kids across the Spanish-speaking world. Be it for pure entertainment and laughter or for more serious topics, they are the opportunity for the younger ones to practice their language skills and to open their minds to other cultures and traditions.