Books And Lessons to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15) is the first cultural celebration that we encounter at the beginning of the year, and I like to be prepared to highlight this in the classroom. Here are some books that I have used in my music classroom that can also be used across other disciplines in your school


Tito Puente Mambo King by Monica Brown

cover of tito puente by monica brown

What I love about this book is that it gives a brief but engaging history of this great musician who has done so much for the world of salsa. Children can participate along by using rhythm sticks or drums to play the part of  “Tum tica, tac tic, tum tic, tom tom” every time that it comes up in the book. Then, I put on this video and students can play along with Tito Puente while listening to his famous song “Oye Como Va”.


This book is also in two languages, allowing it to be integrated with Spanish classes. Students can learn many of the key Spanish words used in the book such as rey, timbales, barrio, mambo, claves, etc. These are a few inexpensive resources that may help facilitate learning!


Another way that I would use this book is to then learn the basics of salsa music. If you do not know how to dance to this, there are many tutorials on Youtube or perhaps the gym teacher can teach salsa basics and thus there is a cross-curricular connection between salsa music and dance. 


Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa by Veronica Chambers

celia cruz queen of salsa by veronica chambers

It is hard to talk about Tito Puente without talking about Celia Cruz. If he was the King of Salsa, she was the Queen. They often performed together and she became one of salsa music’s biggest icons. While this book does not have the same level of active engagement as the first one, it is a wonderful history book that can be used for a music or history lesson with your students. I like to show this video and have my students echo Celia from their seats. 


Book studies like this are great for sub plans. Here are several inexpensive options for “hands-free” lesson plans to use with the book. To build research skills, consider this free template for Hispanic Heritage month biography research! 


Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood

Adas Violin by Susan Hood


This is a wonderful book that is the true story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay. It details the story of Ada Rios, a young girl who receives music lessons on a violin made out of recycled materials in her village of Cateura. The book details how this orchestra came to be under the direction of Fabio Chavez and how he got the idea to make instruments out of materials found in the trash. I follow this book up with a video about this orchestra so they can see the real Ada Rios, Fabio Chavez as well as other students at the school. 


What I love about this book is that it segues perfectly into discussing how to create something out of nothing, which makes for a great integration between science, innovation, and music. Here are some questions I love to ask the students:

  • What inspired this sort of innovation in Fabio Chavez?
  • Do you have other observations about the way that these children live? What could learning music do for them in this kind of circumstance?
  • How might they be changed by the innovations of Chavez?

Then, I assign students to make their own instruments at home. I provide Youtube videos for them to watch for ideas. Here is a list of potential videos to watch:

4 Musical Instruments: Crafts You Can Do Anytime 

Easy Homemade Instruments for Kids 

How to Make Musical Instruments for Kids 

This book and activities can also be great for Earth Day celebrations at your school.  Older students might explore the connections to landfills and the impact of landfills on the environment. Younger students will be inspired to notice the recyclable materials in their own homes!

De Colores 

De Colores and Other Latin american Folks songs for Children

This is a song that I sang with my primary students for years at my first job and it holds a special place in my heart. I would go over the Spanish words of this song first (have the Spanish teacher help if you do not feel comfortable) and then teach the song by rote using the Spanish. 

Once my students have learned this song, I would then team up with my gym teacher and have them do the following dance as an extension of this lesson. Here is the Youtube tutorial that you can watch to prepare.

This plan can be a cross-curricular lesson between Spanish, music, and gym. In other disciplines, history students can research the story behind the song and its origins. Explore the color wheel or seek to understand how the eye perceives color in science class! 

The ability to tie these important books of heritage to our disciplines is a simple way to build diversity into everyday learning. I hope these titles can help you plan for an engaging and exciting Hispanic Heritage Month!

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