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Lessons Learned from Children's Literature



In collaboration with the Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) at Stanford University, SPICE hosted a professional development seminar for elementary school teachers that focused on strategies to incorporate Latin American and Latino children’s literature into the K–5 classroom.

On February 6, 2015, 32 teachers from across the Bay Area gathered at Stanford University to listen to guest lectures, participate in curriculum demonstrations, and collaboratively explore issues related to immigration and identity.

The workshop commenced with a presentation by children’s book author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh, whose most recent book, Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale, was a 2014 recipient of the Americas Book Award. The Americas Book Award was founded in 1993 by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP) to encourage and commend authors, illustrators, and publishers who produce quality children’s and young adult books that portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States.

Mr. Tonatiuh shared the inspiration for Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote, which tells the story of a young rabbit’s journey from Mexico to the United States in search of his father. According to Mr. Tonatiuh, the book can be read as an allegory of the experiences that undocumented immigrants endure in order to reach the United States. During his talk, Mr. Tonatiuh played a short video created by an elementary school teacher in which students shared their own immigration stories in response to the book. The moving video was a reminder of the importance immigration issues have in many students’ lives. Each teacher at the workshop received a copy of Mr. Tonatiuh’s book.

Tomás Jiménez, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies at Stanford University, followed Mr. Tonatiuh’s talk with a lecture on the recent history of immigration to the United States. Professor Jiménez’s educative overview of the economic, social, and political forces that have led to the current state of immigration in the United States perfectly complemented the personal stories shared earlier by Mr. Tonatiuh.

In the afternoon, Keira Philipp-Schnure, Supervisor of Community Education Programs, and Katrina Dillon, Project Assistant, at the Latin American and Iberian Institute at University of New Mexico, shared an educator’s guide for Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote. The educator’s guide offers a plethora of lessons and activities that teachers can use when teaching the book.

As a final activity, workshop participants assembled in small groups to discuss the content and pedagogical strategies that had been shared at the workshop. Jonas Edman, Curriculum Writer at SPICE, facilitated the activity in which teachers offered their own ideas for lesson plans and activities to go along with Mr. Tonatiuh’s book.

In her closing remarks, Elizabeth Saenz-Ackermann, Associate Director at CLAS, expressed heartfelt gratitude to the teachers for their participation in the workshop and for their commitment to incorporating Latin American and Latino themes and topics into their teaching.