For our Ancient History studies next year I wanted to give more voice to the peoples of Latin America. One way to do that is to tell the myths and legends of their ancient cultures.
I also wanted this part of our history readings to be in Spanish.
This sent me on a search for the best anthologies of Latin American folklore I could get my hands on. I wanted ONE book I could purchase and work through over the course of the school year.
I thought maybe some of you might be looking for the same thing. So, here are my favorite anthologies, in both English and Spanish, for studying the legends and myths of Latin America.
You won't need them all, so I've tried to help you understand what each one offers so you can make the best choice for your family.
*Disclaimer: the first and last suggested anthologies I have only read in part. The three in the middle I have read in their entirety, but I haven't used any of these titles yet in my homeschool. I plan to use the first suggestion below over the course of the coming year. I am sharing this research in hopes that it may be of help to you, but please do your own due diligence too!
Five Anthologies of Latin American Myths and Legends
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Cuentos y Leyendas de América Latina
Author: Gloria Cecilia Díaz
Illustrator: Estelí Meza
This anthology is perfect for the littlest learners or for slightly older children whose Spanish is not native or dominant. Forty-three bite-sized leyendas are organized by country, and each one is only one or two pages long. The illustrations are colorful and vibrant. This is the one I will be using in our homeschool this year, and you can read my reasoning if you scroll to the bottom of this post. Available in Spanish only.
Once Upon a Time: Traditional Latin American Tales / Había una vez: cuentos tradicionales latinoamericanos
Author: Rueben Martínez
Illustrator: Raúl Colón
Publisher: Rayo (HarperCollins)
This bilingual anthology contains seven popular tales that are found in many different countries throughout Latin America. Each story is longer (and more complete) than the previous anthology, but the language is simple so even the littlest listeners could understand. English is on one side, and Spanish on the other. If you want a bilingual anthology, this is your best bet.
Cuentos que contaban nuestras abuelas / Tales Our Abuelitas Told
Author: F. Isabel Campoy y Alma Flor Ada
Illustrator: Dávalos, Escrivá, Guevara, Torres
Publisher: Atheneum Books (Simon & Schuster)
These 12 tales are very similar to Había una vez in level and length. Like the previous anthology, this one takes popular stories from around Latin America and melds different details into the stories in this book. Next to Cuentos y Leyendas de América Latina, this is my favorite anthology for younger learners. However, it is available in English OR Spanish which can get pricey if you want both languages.
De oro y esmeraldas / Golden Tales
Author: Lulu Delacre
Illustrator: Lulu Delacre
Like the previous anthology, this one is available in English OR Spanish. The stories are organized by people rather than country: Taínos, Zapotecas, Muiscas, y Quechuas. The 12 stories in this anthology are darker than the previous anthologies and carry more mature themes and higher level language. (Two of the stories have inferences to making love.) The pictures are gorgeous and support the language. An excellent choice, though personally I would save this for middle school.
Los pájaros no tienen fronteras
Author: Edna Iturralde
Publisher: Alfaguara Juvenil
This anthology is thick, in Spanish only, and it has no pictures. However, of all the anthologies in this list it is the most complete with 40 full-length legends beautifully retold. These stories could be read-aloud to 1st graders, or read independently by upper elementary students or middle-schoolers as long as their Spanish was very strong or native level. I hope to use this anthology next time we study Ancients.
How I will use Cuentos y Leyendas this year in our homeschool.
I thought it may be interesting to some of you why I chose the anthology I did. So for those who care, here is my reasoning.
My children understand Spanish at a near-native level, but they speak at a moderate level. My main goal for their Spanish this coming school year is to help them grow in their confidence and ability to speak Spanish. I plan to do this (in part) though Charlotte Mason style narration.
The Charlotte Mason method of narration simply means having a child tell-back what they have read or heard read-aloud.
If my goal was simply to expose my kids to these stories, my top picks would be Cuentos que contaban nuestros abuelitas for my Kinder, and Los pájaros no tienen fronteras for my 2nd and 4th graders. However, I am planning on incorporating a language loop with these stories with the end goal that they could confidently retell them back to me in Spanish.
That loop will look like:
- Hearing me read the story.
- Looking up new vocab, and adding these words to our Picture Dictionary.
- Working on retelling the story while addressing any grammar/conjugation errors.
- Once confident, retelling the tale to their online tutor.
I will repeat this loop with a new story every week or two. For this reason, I want bite-sized stories that my children can grab on to, work with, and master the retelling of, before they get bored with it.
For all of that, (and because of the beautiful illustrations, and because it is easy to purchase in the US) Cuentos y Leyendas de América Latina fits the bill perfectly!
Remember, your goals are not my goals. Your kids are not my kids. Pick the best anthology for you!