When trying to decide what book I wanted pick for my Free Friday I had no problem choosing the current book I’ve been using to plan a lesson for a classroom of first grade English language learners. Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin , written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh, is about two cousins, Carlos who lives in the United States and Carlitos who lives in Mexico, who write letters to each other about their lives in their respective countries. Written by a Mexican-American author, the differences in the lives of these two cousins from different parts of the world are both authentic and relatable to any child or adult who is familiar with these cultures. Additionally, the illustrations of the book give a further authentic feel to the story since they are influenced by ancient Mexican art forms.
I’ve chosen this book for my Free Friday blog post because I think it’s a great book for several reasons: First, I think that this is a great book to read with students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, especially kids from Mexican/Hispanic backgrounds. Second, the set up of the story lends itself very easily to planning lessons that can integrate many content areas such as social studies (the differences between rural and urban living) and reading and writing since the story itself is based on letters that the two cousins send to each other. Third, this book promotes an awareness of multiculturalism and bilingualism that is generally lacking in many other children’s books. As a 2011 Pura Belpre Honor Award recipient for illustrations I think it’s a book that is valuable to any multicultural and/or multilingual classroom, whether the students come from Mexican backgrounds or not.
Overall, I think that this book can help guide any child’s thinking about cultural differences, whether in their own multicultural lives or in the lives of those around them. This book can provide a great opportunity for children to not only reflect on the aspects of their own lives that might be different from other children around them and around the world but also give the chance for students to look into and compare their lives to the Mexican culture in a very authentic and relatable work of children’s literature.