Do you have a favorite place on earth? Maybe the beach or the movie theater or a cabin in the woods? How about an incredible shoe sale or a day at the spa? For me, the answer is the library. I know! It’s okay to call me book crazy. But libraries are so much more than books; they’re community spaces where people come to learn, grow, meet, talk, and sometimes even play games, create art, and more.

This post covers books about Pura Belpré (en español aquí), the first librarian known to have created bilingual storytimes. As a lover of both libraries and el español, I couldn’t resist these books about her life and contributions to libraries. You’ll also find FREE guides from the publishers and other resources covering Pura Belpré’s life below.

Pura Belpré, Library Pioneer

Chances are you’ll probably see bilingual resources at your local library or even advertisements for events in other languages. But in spite of the USA’s diverse linguistic history, this was not always the case. Enter Pura Belpré, who, on a trip to New York City, was recruited for a job in at the New York Public Library, promptly became enamored with libraries, and changed the library world forever. If you want to deep-dive into her story, check out the video above, the audio-biography from NPR below, the books in this list, or the selected bibliography at the end.

Books about Pura Belpré

DISCLAIMER: This post covering books about Pura Belpré contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if you purchase the linked books. We only include resources we have actually read, used, and valued. If you love legalese or need some bedtime reading, you can read our full disclosure here.

Pura’s Cuentos

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Pura’s Cuentos
by Annette Bay Pimentel

Target Ages / Group

This bright, lyrical picture book is targeted to ages four through eight, so roughly PK-1st as a read-aloud and 2nd through 4th grades as independent reading. However, this book could be used for nearly any age or learning group, including high school and ESL/ESOL.

Learning Standards

Annette Bay Pimentel, the author, outlined specific Common Core learning standards covered here (no login required to see standards). Some generic learning standards covered by this book are:

  • Determine words’ meanings from context, both in English and Spanish
  • Describe what happens in a story
  • Identify the main idea or theme of a story
  • Use and/or identify in-text or printing features, such as italics, bold, punctuation, captions, etc.
  • Bilingual Edition: Experience how words in other languages affect and enrich a story
  • Connect reading to everyday life experiences, especially the library, storytime, and reading

Teachers Guide

You’ll need a free Teachers’ Pay Teachers account to download this freebie, but there are so many incredible free resources on TPT that, if you’re like me, you’ll quickly find yourself with more amazing stuff to download than time. The author, Annette Bay Pimentel, posted a teacher’s guide here, which covers Common Core standards also. The guide is broken down into sections for elementary and secondary students, so be sure to check it out for either age group.

Special Note

Pura’s Cuentos ends with a brief biography, endnotes, and a selected bibliography, all of which can be used for further study and especially with older students.

Planting Stories / Sembrando historias

Target Ages / Group

This picture book is targeted to ages 4-8, so again roughly PK-1st as a read-aloud and 2nd through 4th grades as independent reading. However, this book could also be used for nearly any age or learning group, including high school and ESL/ESOL. The target ages are the same for the Spanish edition.

Learning Standards

As mentioned above, there are two versions of this book: English language and Spanish language. The learning standards that will work best for your learners depend upon your learning environment, so we have included some generic learning standards below:

English Edition – English Language Arts

  • Determine words’ meanings from context, both in English and Spanish
  • Describe what happens in a story
  • Identify the main idea or theme of a story
  • Experience how words in other languages affect and enrich a story
  • Connect reading to everyday life experiences, especially the library, storytime, and reading
  • Optional: Discuss Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican diaspora, citizenship, immigration, etc.

Spanish Edition – Spanish Language Proficiency

  • Determine new vocabulary words’ meanings from context
  • Describe what happens in a story
  • Read and utilize the preterite and imperfect
  • Describe outside experiences, such as visiting the library, storytime, and reading
  • Optional: Discuss Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican diaspora, citizenship, immigration, etc.

Teachers Guides and Storytime Reading

As an award-winning book that was featured in a lot of “best of” lists and even on television, this book may be the easiest of this list to find.

Teacher’s and Literature Guides

Harper Collins, Planting Stories‘ publisher, has a PDF teacher’s guide that contains discussion questions and extension activities. Find the PDF link under “Resources” here. Learning Stories, an philanthropy-focused education site, also has a short literature guide here.

Bilingual Storytime Reading

If you’re interested in hearing what this story sounds like in both languages (or in the language not in the version you’re reading), try this bilingual storytime reading of the book by Fayetteville Public Library. And check out some of the other free resources below.

Storyteller’s Candle / La velita de los cuentos

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Storyteller’s Candle
by Lucía M. González and Lulu Delacre

Target Ages / Group

This 100% bilingual book is targeted to ages roughly 5-10. Due to the text’s density and vocabulary, we would say it skews a bit older than the other two in this list of books about Pura Belpré and may therefore be a read-aloud for grades up to roughly third. As always, this is just a rough estimate that depends upon your learners, and this book can definitely be used for Spanish-language classrooms and in other environments, such as ESL/ELL classrooms.

Learning Standards

As a bilingual book, you have a lot of flexibility to address many learning standards in English and Spanish. Here are some generic standards:

  • Determine words’ meanings from context
  • Describe what happens in a story
  • Identify the main idea or theme of a story
  • Name the main character and location of a story
  • Connect reading to everyday life experiences, especially the library, storytime, and reading
  • Optional: Discuss Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican diaspora, citizenship, immigration, etc.

Teachers Guide

Storyteller’s Candle’s teachers’ guide is fairly comprehensive. We recommend it as a jumping-off point if you plan to integrate this book into your classroom. You can find it on the website of Lee & Low, Storyteller’s Candle’s publisher.

Special Note

Not all input, or language production, has to come from you. Sometimes it’s fun to the let the professionals do it. Check out this not-precisely linear, expository Spanish read-aloud from the cast of Hamilton. (Book reading starts at 3:45 mark.)

Free Worksheets

We’ve included generic English and Spanish worksheets about Pura Belpré below. You can even use them for digital or virtual lessons or change them to suit your needs, as they are PDF fillable and editable. Just click the version you want to download it.

Click to download the general English worksheet about Pura Belpré
Click to download English
Haz clic para descargar la versión en español
Descargar en español

Selected Bibliography & Recommended Extension Pages

ALA. (n.d.) Pura Belpré Award. American Library Association. http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/belpre

Belpré, Pura. (1950). Papers, 1896-1985 ; bulk: 1950-1970. https://centropr-archive.hunter.cuny.edu/sites/default/files/faids/belpref.html

Library of Congress. (n.d.). Migrating to a new land. https://www.loc.gov/classroom-materials/immigration/puerto-rican-cuban/migrating-to-a-new-land

[Featured Image] New York Public Library Archives, The New York Public Library. (1926). 135th Street Branch, Children’s Reading Room. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47df-e513-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

New York Public Library Archives, The New York Public Library. (n.d.). 135th Street Branch. Interior. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/92eadd7f-8071-ffa7-e040-e00a18064a9e

New York Public Library Archives, The New York Public Library. (n.d.). 135th Street, exterior view. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-81dc-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Ulaby, N. (2016, September 08). How NYC’s first Puerto Rican librarian brought Spanish to the shelves. NPR, All Things Considered. https://www.npr.org/2016/09/08/492957864/how-nycs-first-puerto-rican-librarian-brought-spanish-to-the-shelves

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