Searching for high-interest reading for heritage speakers of Spanish

This is an older post; take a look at this newer post to see how I have evolved over the past two years as I have grown my class library from a small affair to become the central pillar of the heritage speakers classes.

Thanks to Eileen H. of Milwaukee, WI for helping me put together much of this list.

One thing that I have been scheming to acquire is a class library of YA novels in Spanish that would be appropriate for our native speakers classes. My dream is that those classes be filled with age-appropriate reading materials, that students engage in reading circles, that our writing clinics grapple with themes brought up in the readings. It is a dream of a class not entirely tied to the one required book that we are all reading, but rather a vibrant class in which students are reading according to interest and even recommending good books to each other.

jamonA few weeks ago I asked online colleagues for suggestions that do not include the usual suspects (i.e. Cajas de cartón, Esperanza Rising, Casa en Mango Street). Nor did I want the kind of challenging books that require teacher guidance to keep the students engaged (beloved as they may be I will place Chicano, La ciudad de las bestias, Caramelo and Rumbo al hermoso norte on that list). The idea, after all, is to foster a love of independent reading, not a sense that “with struggle you´ll eventually get through this $%&! book“. I am looking for books like El Jamón del sándwich, a novel about a girl with divorced parents who bounces between living with her father´s new family and her mother´s new family and feels like the ‘ham in the sandwich’.

I have compiled the suggestions into one list of 42 books that, if I bought them all, would cost about $700. That is about equivalent to our department budget for 2013-14… I wonder if I could convince my colleagues to do without whiteboard markers next year?

Here is the first group of books available to order online from Librería Norma (Colombia). If you have a native speakers program and are interested in building a free reading class library then bookmark this post because I´ll be adding more books to this list in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, are there any suggestions you would add?

books for native speakers 3

books for native speakers 1books for native speakers 2books for native speakers 4 is another source. FREE SHIPPING to the US for orders over 15 euros!







  1. Hi, a Spanish teacher gave me a link to this list so that I could order her copies of these books. I am having difficulty finding them on the sites listed. I know the post is a couple of years old, so is there another place I could look to find them?

  2. Thank you much for sharing this list! I had asked my school to buy me these books but the librarian can’t find them online. Is there another page besides Librería Norma where I can order them?


    Esmeralda Zamora

    1. I have seen some of the books on Amazon… I once tried to order through Librería Norma and could not finish the transaction but they do have some good books so I have hunted them through other portals. If you do not find them at Amazon, you might try (which is the Spanish site and has a different, and bigger, inventory of books in Spanish). If you want to avoid Amazon, there are some interesting selections at Santillana USA: Please also see my more recent post with a lot more suggestions:

      Finally, I have recently stumbled upon a great selection of books published by Orca Soundings (if you do a search on Amazon for “Spanish soundings” many books from the series appears). They were originally written in English for reluctant adolescent readers. While there is nothing specifically latino here, the themes are highly-compelling & universal. The language is also simple enough for students making a transition from leveled readers to “authentic” lit. Here is a link to one of those books, I have bought a half-dozen different titles:

  3. Estimado Profesor: he leído en su blog la recomendación de mi libro “El jamón del sándwich” de Editorial Norma. Me ha dado mucha alegría. ¿Sus alumnos lo leen aún? Veo que este post es 2013… Bueno, quiero agradecer su recomendación. Reciba mi cordial saludo desde Córdoba, Argentina.

  4. I have a whole list of literatura juventil from Spain which I use in Spring level 4. I could send if it were of interest (some US teachers do not want anything from Spain…?). And I’ve been using the science fiction series La llave de tiempo by Ana Alonso/ Javier Pelegrin for levels 5 and AP for 3 years now. Currently I’m using book 1 & 3 in level 5 and 4 & 5 in AP. I have written a full study guide for the first one if anyone is interested.

    1. Yes I would love that list and post it to give others ideas too. My book buying budget has dried up, but luckily I spent the years department budget last July in anticipation of budget issues.

    2. I just looked into La llave de tiempo… it looks great! I am so jealous of your six year program… I wish I had more time with my students 😉

      Why don´t you use book 2? Is it inappropriate for school? Or just not as compelling? I think I am going to buy this series for my heritage speakers once I have a chance and would love to use your study guide if you are willing to share. I could even post it here, with full credit to you, if you wanted to post it for free. I know some teachers who are selling their work, I´d be willing to post a review if that is the way you want to go, but that will take some time because I´ll have to actually buy the book & find an advanced student to teach the book to through an independent study.

      1. All the books are great and totally different from each other. I made two posters last summer for my classroom. I’ll send the first one on Monday when I’m on my school computer.
        Quick synopsis:
        1: exposition, the 4 kids from the future are located, meet each other and realize that Hiden and his corporation is evil and wants their special blood to make pharmeceuticals. They escape the island using their unique powers. This book tackles mind control, Internet control, surveillance, types of freedom, globalization.
        2. They go to Paris on first mission with help of two illegal smuggler types who turn out to be from the future also. They go to the Tour de St. Jacque, symbolic for the beginning of their own pelgrimage that will last about 6 yrs through books 1-6. They are about 16 yrs. old in book one and get to their early 20s by book 8. They then travel to the floating city on the Cote d/Azur of Medusa. Actually I love this book and its images but I want the kids to get further in the series so I thought to skip it. Anyway, they encounter the extraterrestral message that will lead the Earth to build a mysterious device out in space. This in the future will be a portal like the wormholes in Deep Space Nine. Also, the kids learn about the Llave de tiempo, the machine that allows time travel. This book looks at a more socialist government yet still with more citizen control than I’d like to think we are used to. The kids’ individual powers are emerging. The love interest is growing.
        3. They have to continue with the 3rd mission to the Moon colony and Mars. The ideas about the religion of the future are further developed and we realize that the kids were sent to observe key events in the religion that had its roots in this time period. There is a lot of science here that seems pretty accurate. Javier Pelegrin is a high school science teacher so I have assumed it to be mostly true. In my AP class two years ago I had a girl (now at MIT) explain to to rest of us non science types about infinity, worm holes, folded space etc. all inSpanish so that we could visualize all this.
        4. Protagonist Martin has to participate in the Virtual Games in order to complete the next mission. This book takes place in Japan, in a virtual Japanese city, in China and in the games. It tackles addictions of all sorts, specifically videogaming and virtual reality.
        5. This book digs into Uriel, the corporation that seeks free green energy for all, led by Dianne Scholem. Elements of this corporation and its leader lead to the religion of the future. Fascinating how the author leads the teen readers to explore how religion starts, grows, thrives, how different factions can split off.
        The other books are set in the future from where the kids come; they return. There is a Data like character in all the books who is still alive in the future.
        Anyway, I skipped book 2 so I could get the kids further into the series.

  5. Do you just use these for Heritage Speakers? Or would you use them for Spanish 4 and/or 5? Is there another place to find them? I couldn’t locate some of them on the websites given.

    1. This set of books is still awaiting funding, which is supposed to be released in October so I am hoping to get these books before the second semester. I aso found those sites hard to navigate, even when I know what I am looking for. I do silent sustained reading in all of my classes, but the first books to be chosen (by heritage speakers and non-heritage speakers alike) tend to be children´s books like Eric Carle´s books or the No, David! series, books that remind students of their early childhood.

      Once they get over that (some like to test me when I tell them that ANY reading is okay for SSR in class), many of my heritage speakers actually prefer the TPRS publishing books because there are some good stories written in a style that is easy for them to devour. On the feedback forms I was expecting negativity, and in fact encouraged it because I stressed that their actual opinions would determine the kinds of books I bought in the future, and some of the highest rated books are from TPRS publishing.

      I teach in California and several of my heritage speakers are fanatical about getting a copy of one of the autobiographical books by Francisco Jiménez (he wrote Cajas de Cartón). I only have 1-2 copies of each book, so I notice the kids who rush in early to grab their preferred book. For the non-heritage speakers the Captain Underpants series has been translated into Spanish, as well as the Judy Moody series (both appeal to year 3 and 4, although they were written for much younger audiences).

      I notice that there is a certain kind of book that many teen girls are reading (in English), but I haven´t found a similar genre published in Spanish. For lack of a better way to describe them, they remind me of the after school specials (adolescent drama on tv) of my childhood. Easy to read, contemporary novels like Jay Asher´s Thirteen Reasons Why. I´m sure I could get translations, but I´d really like to know if there are original teen novels like that being published in Spain and Latin America.

  6. I wish I could offer some suggestions. It’s embarrassing to live with how much exposure I’ve actually had to popular literature in Spanish. I’m taking from this list for my own sake!

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