¿Están listos para el mes de la Herencia Hispánica? In other words, are you ready for Hispanic Heritage Month?
In the United States, we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month between September 15 and October 15 to recognize and honor those in our county who are of Hispanic heritage. This month provides the perfect opportunity to expose young children to the traditions, contributions and unique experiences of those who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico, the countries of Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
It is projected that Hispanics will comprise more than 20 percent of the nation’s total population by 2050. As the United States becomes more diverse, teaching children about various Hispanic cultures not only provides them with a well-rounded education, but it teaches them to respect and value others.
Regardless of your background, there are many simple ways to honor the richness, uniqueness and diversity of Hispanic culture with your child. Consider the following suggestions:
Learn about Hispanic figures. Use story time to read books with your child about the lives of well-known Hispanic figures such as Celia Cruz, Octavio Paz, Frida Kahlo and César Chávez. There are many excellent resources for choosing age-appropriate books, including your local library or bookstore, your child’s preschool teachers or the Internet. You can even play the name game and see how many famous Hispanic Americans, such as Jennifer Lopez or Oscar de la Renta, your child recognizes from his or her everyday life. Bringing notable Hispanics to your child’s attention provides an opportunity to discuss the significant contributions Hispanics have made to every facet of American culture.
Show the connection. Take the opportunity to teach your child about English words with Spanish origins. Did you know that renegade, mosquito and chocolate all have Spanish origins? In fact, according to many scholars, Spanish has contributed more than 10,000 words to the English language! You may be surprised to see how many common English words your child can identify that originated from the Spanish language. You can also use this opportunity to learn a few basic Spanish words along with your child. Hearing new words in any language expands a child’s vocabulary and helps with language development.
Try new (and familiar) Hispanic foods. Many local restaurants offer delicious Hispanic foods such as empanadas, paella, fajitas, arroz con pollo and flan. Or, select a simple Hispanic dish for your family to try and cook it with your child. Many cookbooks and Web sites offer recipes for tasty dishes like maduros, arepas and enchiladas. Helping to cook these foods will not only build your preschooler’s confidence, but will allow him or her to use skills ranging from math (counting, measuring, sequencing of events, understanding time) to reading (numbers, symbols, word recognition).
Go out on the town. Check your community calendar to see if there are any events or celebrations that you can support—some at little or no cost. Local groups often play Spanish music—such as salsa, meringue, samba and bachata—while children and adults perform traditional dances from throughout Latin American. Remember, the most important benefit of these activities is the wide range of observational and creative opportunities for children of all ages, especially those under the age of five.
Take a “trip” around the world. Hispanic Heritage Month is an excellent opportunity for you to teach your child about other nations. Use a map to show your child the locations of various Spanish-speaking countries in the Caribbean, Europe and the Americas. Talk about the differences and similarities between the United States and select countries such as Chile or Guatemala in terms of geography, history and customs.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, please take the time to teach a child about the achievements of a group of people who have contributed so much to American culture. As our nation and world become increasingly diverse, a child’s understanding of others will be an important factor in his or her success.
Sharen Hausmann has dedicated her life to improving the quality of care for all children. Prior to Smart Start, she served as a consultant, lecturer, teacher and trainer, empowering teachers to promote healthy growth and development in young children. In addition, Sharen is affiliated with a number of state and national early care and education professional organizations nationwide.