Scholastic Book Club Celebrates Cesar Chavez Day With “Harvesting Hope”

Latin@s in Kid Lit is excited to have the opportunity to cross-post with Scholastic’s Club Leo en Español, the largest Spanish school book club in the country offering Spanish, English, and bilingual books and educational materials to children in grades Pre K-8.

On Monday, May 31, the Scholastic site celebrated Cesar Chavez Day by highlighting Pura Belpré Honoree Harvesting Hope! Click here to see the original post, which has been reblogged below.

By Concetta Gleason
editorial assistant/admin coordinator for Club Leo

“Kindness and compassion towards all living things is a mark of a civilized society.…Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves.”

—Cesar Chavez, co-founder of United Farm Workers

Today is Cesar Chavez Day, and to celebrate we are revisiting Harvesting Hope by Kathleen Krull and Yuyi Morales. Harvesting Hope chronicles Chavez’s life as an advocate for the rights of migrant farm workers and laborers.

Cesar Chavez was born on March 31, 1927, in Yuma, Arizona. His parents, who were Mexican immigrants, prospered as business owners and farmers. However, the Great Depression crushed the family’s financial prospects, as it did to so many Americans. In 1937, Chavez’s family moved to California to find employment as migrant workers. Chavez was only ten years old when he experienced the inhumane conditions migrant workers were forced to endure as they worked long hours in the fields for meager pay. From this difficult experience Chavez learned the enduring importance of human dignity and compassion, which would fundamentally inform his leadership as an adult.

In Harvesting Hope, Krull maintains the delicate balance between showing and telling, providing significant historical background while taking the reader on a journey from Chavez’s idyllic childhood in Arizona to his hard-won victory over a corporate giant to ensure the legal rights of farm workers. Morales’s illustrations imbue the book with a dreamlike quality. Her figures command the page with grace and her use of colors shows the richness of Cesar’s emotional life and the depth of his plight as a migrant worker. This book is a worthy tribute to such a noble historical figure, and in 2004 it won the Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor.

As a leader, Chavez refused to engage in bullying tactics that dehumanized others and he is revered for being a catalyst of social change. Cesar Chavez Day is an official state holiday in California, Colorado, and Texas that is dedicated to acts of community service. Join us as we celebrate Cesar Chavez’s life works and some excellent Latino children’s literature!

Author’s Note: Club Leo en Español supports your classroom with fun and affordable books that connect children’s home language and learning. Our books include amazing series, original titles, and winners of the Pura Belpré Award, which celebrates the remarkable contributions of artists who give voice to the Latino community through children’s literature.

Club Leo en Español apoya tu salón de clases con libros divertidos y asequibles que conectan la lengua materna y el aprendizaje de los niños. Nuestra colección incluye increíbles series, títulos originales y ganadores del Premio Pura Belpré, que celebra los extraordinarios aportes de artistas que dan voz a la comunidad latina a través de la literatura infantil.

Through Reading, Anything Is Possible

 

For our first set of posts, each of us will respond to the question: “Why Latin@ Kid Lit?” to address why we created a site dedicated to celebrating books by, for, or about Latin@s.

By Cindy L. Rodriguez

Our house was an oasis in the Chicago neighborhood crumbling around us. The house on the left was torn down after Old Man Louie died. The building on the right was bulldozed after some kids set it on fire. Inside our little haven, my parents encouraged me to read. Through books, I left that neighborhood to meet interesting characters in beautiful places who were struggling with life, love, and purpose, and who were trying to become free mentally, physically, or spiritually.

Dr. Seuss3My parents moved us into better neighborhoods. Books moved me into a broader world of ideas and possibilities. A love for literature has made all the difference in my life. Now, I teach and write because I want children from all kinds of backgrounds to realize that, through literacy, anything is possible.

This may sound naïve, simplistic, or overly optimistic, but I honestly believe it.

I understand the challenges young people face because I’ve worked with middle and high school students for thirteen years. I’ve met the tattooed freshman girl whose education was interrupted because her mom had to move from place to place. At age fourteen, she had the reading level of a sixth grader. But guess what? She earned all As and Bs, joined a sport, and quickly became a leader in our school.

I’ve met the sixteen-year-old freshman boy who earned an in-school suspension for verbally and physically confronting a female teacher during the first week of school. He continued to struggle, earning Ds and Fs in his classes. But guess what? He read a book independently for the first time ever. He said he knew the teachers cared about him, and once he came to talk to me, tears streaming down his face after his girlfriend broke up with him via text message. He had made a collage with movie tickets and other mementos for their one-year anniversary that would never happen.

I’ve also met the jaded seventh-grade boy who asked me straight-out one day, “Why are you the only minority teacher in our school?”

All of these students are young Latin@s. They need safe places, trusted people to talk to, and answers to their questions. As a teacher who sees them for forty-five minutes a day, I do my best, and one of the most significant things I can do is encourage them to read. I can’t solve their problems at home or with their friends, but I can pass along my belief—given to me by my parents—that literacy is important and life-changing.

I want my students to develop the skills needed for academic and professional success. I also want them to enjoy a lifetime of beautiful places and interesting characters. I want them to have access to lots and lots of books with characters who look, speak, and act like them. Previous posts have outlined why it’s crucial for readers to “see themselves” in literature. But I also want them to see beyond their current selves. I want them to see realistic and fantastical futures.  I want them to realize anything is possible.

Yes, you can be a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Here, read a picture book about Sonia Sotomayor.

Yes, you can “escape” for a while and travel through the depths of the afterlife to save your best friend’s soul. Here, read Sanctum by Sarah Fine.

Yes, you can be a civil rights activist. Here, read biographies about César Chávez and Delores Huerta.

In the very distant future, if you discover you are a clone created to keep someone else alive, remember this: you will still have an identity and choices. For now, though, question whether science fiction will someday become nonfiction. Here, read The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer.

Yes, you will survive your teen years. More than that, you will thrive. You’ll learn about love and family and friendship and acceptance and perseverance and integrity. Here, read Margarita Engle, Alex Sanchez, René Saldaña, Jr., Gary Soto, and Guadalupe Garcia McCall.

I’m involved with Latin@s In Kid Lit because I believe all children should have books in their hands, even when they’re too young to turn the pages, and they should all be told again and again, “Oh, the places you’ll go.”

Sonia Sotomayor: Supreme Court Justice    Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers    The House of the Scorpion (Matteo Alacran, #1)    Sanctum (Guards of the Shadowlands, #1)    Buried Onions   Bait