Last year I escorted a group of readers to Republica De Francia, a school located in the gangrenous neighborhood of the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa. We were there to help the Chispa project establish a library. As most of you know, my daughter, Sara, started the Chispa Project in 2014 to create libraries in primary schools in Honduras.
As we took inventory of the library’s collection of 2,000 books, the volunteers and I were surprised to recognize some of our family favorites translated into Spanish.
Today my wife Becky and I want to use my annual column of book reviews to recommend children’s authors that we have shared with our children. Many are titles that can be found among the various collections of Chispa Libraries and, if you volunteer in 2022, you may also find your favorite books.
Discovering a children’s author you love opens up a whole new world of learning for you. Standard collections include Dr. Seuss’ books as well as EB White’s classic, “Charlotte’s Web”. Consider adding one of Laura Numeroff’s books beginning with “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie,” illustrated by Felicia Bond.
In addition to these authors, our Honduran libraries contain books by Eric Carle, who wrote one of the five best-selling children’s books of all time, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”.
Carle enhances his books with tactile methods that include tissue paper collage, perforations, textured lines, and other almost Impressionist-type artwork. Among his more than 70 books, we recommend “A Very Busy Spider” or “A House for Hermit Crab”.
Becky’s favorite author, Patricia Polacco, uses her illustrations to recreate interpretations of her Russian roots. His popular “Rechenka Eggs” describes the Russian tradition of painting eggs for Easter. Despite having difficulty learning to read in elementary school, Polacco has written over 100 books. Look for “Thank you, Mr. Falkner,” his tribute to the teacher who taught him to read.
In her series on a curious and pesky little sister, Beverly Cleary made the character of Ramona hysterically famous. Also, don’t miss Ralph, his character in “The Mouse and the Motorcycle”. This book has entertained children for decades as a spiritually relevant story of friendship and sacrifice. Cleary’s artists continue to update his books, attracting the interest of generations.
Arnold Lobel writes the first reader series “Frog and Toad”, which translates well in several cultures. The two amphibian friends become close despite their differences. Don’t be fooled by the plain language and straightforward pictures. Stories provide thought-provoking meaning, even when readers burst out laughing. Parents can have fun with children by dramatizing the two characters in various ways.
A more recent book on the Chispa Project list is “The Day You Begin” by Jacqueline Woodson. The book examines the loneliness of feeling different while helping children discover that they are not alone. Rafael Lopéz’s artwork adds considerable inspiration.
Becky and I read these picture books to our children and grandchildren from the week they were born. But most children in Honduras have never seen a picture book because they are too expensive compared to a family’s priority to feed their children.
Chispa libraries allow me to pass on the love of reading. We share our family favorites mixed with new titles from Latino authors and Honduran classics. The variety allows these children and their parents to discover their own favorites.
Please email me with your book suggestions for our Chispa library. And then consider joining Becky and I on our next volunteer trip in 2022 to give the kids their first book. But – just warning – our volunteers often find themselves like Numeroff’s character in “If you give a mouse a cookie”. They come back again and again.
Contact Chaplain Norris at [email protected] or voicemail (843) 608-9715.