Dreamers, The Poet X, Lucky Broken Girl, Juana and Lucas, Niño Wrestles the World. All of these books have been recipients of the Pura Belpré Author or Illustrator Awards. But how much do our students know about this extraordinary and important individual’s contributions to the history of children’s literature?
Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré, written by Anika Aldamuy Denise and illustrated by Paola Escobar, is a fantastic introduction to Pura’s story. In 1921, Pura left Puerto Rico to attend her sister’s wedding in New York. Instead of returning home after the wedding, Pura took a job as a bilingual assistant at the New York Public Library branch in Harlem. The Spanish speaking community in Harlem was growing, but there weren’t any books written in Spanish within the library’s collection. Pura set to work retelling the traditional stories that she had heard in Puerto Rico to the library’s young patrons. She sewed puppets to bring the stories to life, but there were still no books for children to check out. So Pura began to write them and send them to publishers.
Pura Belpré wasn’t just an author or a storyteller. She was a game changer. All of a sudden, children with no access to books or literacy within the libraries of New York were welcome and could see their histories reflected in written language. Pura empowered a generation and the books that receive the award named for her will continue to do so for generations to come.
Diversity 8: I want to know about other people and how our lives and experiences are the same and different.
Justice 15: I know about people who helped stop unfairness and worked to make life better for many people.
RI.1- Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
RI.4- Determine the meaning of words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 2 topic or subject area.
RI.7- Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.