Every year between September 15 and October 15, Americans across the United States celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month in honor of the histories, cultures, and contributions of families with roots in Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central, and/or South America.
Originally designated as “Hispanic Heritage Week” by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, the 30-day period that is celebrated today was signed into U.S. law as a joint resolution by President Ronald Reagan and Congress in 1988.
So why does this celebration kick off in the middle of September? September 15 was selected as the first day in symbolic recognition of the Independence Days for the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, as well as Mexico (September 16) and Chile (September 18).
Many public schools throughout the City will commemorate National Hispanic Heritage Month with school events, afterschool activities, and family nights that are fun and informative for students and families. These celebrations are aligned with the DOE’s culturally responsive-sustaining education (CR-SE) strategy, which sees diversity as a source of knowledge. CR-SE allows students to use their own identities as a way to learn—by using aspects of their race, social class, gender, language, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or ability, CR-SE helps students learn more about the world and their place in it. Studies show that students learning with CR-SE are more confident and active in class, obtain better grades, graduate more often, and become better citizens.
You can also celebrate and learn about Hispanic/Latinx achievements and cultures outside of our schools all year long. Check out the following list of books and websites for ideas and activities that you and your families can use and participate in this month and throughout the year.
Elementary Grades (Grades Pre-K–5)
- All Around Us by Xelena Gonzalez, illustrated by Adriana M. Garcia
- Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal
- Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson
- Danza! Amalia Hernandez and el Ballet Folklórico de México by Duncan Tonatiuh
- Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
- Juana & Lucas by Juana Medina
- Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
- Just Ask! by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Raphael Lopez
- La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
- Lucía the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza, illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez
- Marvelous Maravilloso: Me and My Beautiful Family by Carrie Lara, illustrated by Christine Battuz
- The Secret Footprints by Julia Alvarez, illustrated by Fabian Negrin
- Side by Side/Lado a Lado: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez by Monica Brown, illustrated by Joe Cepeda
- Ugly Cat & Pablo by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Tom Knight
- Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown, art by John Parra
Middle Grades (Grades 6–8)
- Bravo! Poems about Amazing Hispanics by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Raphael Lopez
- Charlie Hernandez and the League of Shadows by Ryan Calejo
- The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya
- The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez
- Forest World by Margarita Engle
- Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
- Jabberwalking by Juan Felipe Herrera
- Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar
- Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish by Pablo Cartaya
- My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson
- My Family Divided: One Girl’s Journey of Home, Loss, and Hope by Diana Guerrero and Erica Moroz
- Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres
- Tight by Torrey Maldonado
High School Grades (Grades 9–12)
- Analee, in Real Life by Janelle Milanes
- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
- Barely Missing Everything by Matt Mendez
- Corazon by Yesika Salgado
- Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
- The Go-Betweens by Veronica Chambers
- I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
- Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capó Crucet
- The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
- Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodrigues Fowler
- An Uninterrupted View of the Sky by Melanie Crowder
- We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
- The Official National Hispanic Heritage Month website is a collaboration between the Library of Congress and other U.S. government agencies to celebrate Latino American/Hispanic/Pre-Columbian cultures. The site provides digital collections and exhibitions, event listings, and helpful resources, including links to the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives.
- Google Arts & Culture’s Latino Cultures in the US platform is a robust family, student, and teacher-friendly website that provides users with access to high-resolution images and videos of Latino art and historical figures. The site also features interviews with Latino celebrities and influencers, and it even provides users with virtual tours of art exhibitions, outdoor murals, and Latino neighborhoods from across the U.S.
- The Smithsonian Latino Center provides links to the Smithsonian’s various Hispanic/Latino heritage-related digital resources. The page contains links to videos, posters, and interactive websites regarding various Hispanic/Latino American experiences. The resources on the page, much of which can also be used by students as well as families who are seeking to provide supplemental home instruction to their children, is appropriate for students of all ages, unless otherwise noted.
- The National Archives’ DOCSTeach site has a vast online collection of primary source documents available (i.e. maps, historical images, written documents, etc) that could be used to supplement any instruction regarding the personalities and historical events that played a crucial role in Hispanic/Latino American history. This site is geared for educators, but it may also be used by middle and high school students who are looking to add to their instruction or research.
- PBS has a great webpage dedicated to the celebration of Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month. In addition to containing links to all episodes of PBS’ acclaimed 2013 documentary series, “The Latino Americans,” the page also contains links to articles, photo albums, and videos regarding a wide range of Hispanic/Latino personalities and experiences. The materials available on this website can be appropriate for both younger and older students.
- Thanks to the Poetry Foundation, students, teachers, and families can check out the organization’s great collection of outstanding Latino poetry through its U.S. Latinx Voices in Poetry page. The collection is intended to be broad and inclusive, and it features poetry from writers like Julia Alvarez, Harry Gamboa, Jr., and Carmen Tafolla, among many others.
- K-8 teachers, parents, and students alike can use Scholastic’s “Bring Hispanic Heritage Month to Life” webpage for notable resources designed for K-8 students, including discussion guides, writing activities, and lesson plans.
- The DOE’s National Hispanic Heritage Month WeTeachNYC page contains outstanding resources that can be used by K–12 teachers, families, and students inside or outside the classroom. Resources include lesson plans, digital exhibitions, timelines, and key primary sources.
Know other books that could be used to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month? Let us know in the comments below, and also take our booklist survey so you can let us know about other excellent and engaging books that can help students learn every day!
On behalf of the DOE, we wish everyone an illuminating and inspiring Hispanic Heritage Month.