My daughter is reading Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan in her 6th grade ELA class and since it’s been on my list of books to read for a couple of YEARS I decided to read it with her. It is a story that draws readers in almost immediately, and one that many can identify with and that many of us can learn from. I found the audiobook version on YouTube (see below) and plan on playing it for my younger daughter.
You can find numerous teaching resources online (here’s one from Scholastic) and it would be perfect for lessons in character, perseverance, historical fiction, immigration, the Great Depression, or Mexican culture. I love that my daughter’s ELA teacher has parents bring in various food items that serve as chapter titles so students can try different foods. (A more elaborate activity could be to have students/parents bring in food items for a fiesta like the one detailed in the book. Guest speakers from the community can also be invited to talk about their immigration experience or any personal connections they might have to this time in history.)
Other topics mentioned in the book that can be further discussed
- Class divides: Why does Esperanza say that in Mexico there’s a river between her and Miguel? Does the same divide exist in the US?
- Immigration, migrant workers
- Read The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child by Francisco Jimenez
- Listen to this NPR story about migrant workers “Inside the Life of an Apple Picker”
- Discuss why families would choose this type of work/life vs. a more stable one.
- Working conditions for migrant workers: Why do workers strike? What are pros and cons of striking?
- Dust storms
- Discussion of various symbols in the book — the mountains and valleys in the blanket Esperanza is crocheting, the meaning behind her name, etc.
- Other books about characters that had to persevere through difficult circumstances… For example, read Listening for Lions (Gloria Whelan) or The Higher Power of Lucky (Susan Patron) and discuss similarities and differences between the stories and characters.