Multicultural Read Aloud

For 3rd Grade Students

About the Book

Waiting for the Biblioburro is written by Monica Brown and Illustrated by John Parra. It was published in 2011 by Tricycle Press, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

About the Story

Waiting for the Biblioburro is a story about a little girl named Ana who loves to read and write. There is no longer a teacher in her town and she has access to only one book. A man with two burros comes to town one day, bringing books for the children to read until his return. Ana gets to read plenty of books, and she writes a story for the man with the burros while he is away. The book Ana writes and gives the man is this book, Waiting for the Biblioburro. It received The Christopher Award, an award that aims "to encourage men, women and children to pursue excellence in creative arenas that have the potential to influence a mass audience positively," in 2012 (

About the Author

Monica Brown, Ph.D. is the author of many award-winning books for children and a Professor of English at Northern Arizona University, specializing in U.S. Latino Literature and Multicultural Literature. Her books are inspired by her Peruvian-American heritage and desire to share Latino/a stories with children.

Quote: ". . . I don't think it is ever too early to introduce children to the concepts of magical realism, social justice, and dreaming big!"
How far would you go for a book?
In this video, Monica describes how the research that she completed while preparing to write Waiting for the Biblioburro was eye-opening in that there have been libraries in covered wagons, on the backs of camels, and on boats. She describes a part of the inspiration for the book - a charter school in San Diego that had no library, so a library cart was pushed from room to room as the school's "biblioburro" until they received a library. She is inspired by those who help to place books in the hands of children - something that all librarians and teachers do. She explains that this book is a celebration of how far some people will go for a book. She asks, "How far would you go for a book, and how far would a librarian go to get a book to you?"
"Waiting for the Biblioburro"
In this video, Monica first explains that she initially heard of Luis Soriano, the traveling librarian who travels Columbia bringing books to children with his two burros, through a New York Times article. She was amazed by Luis' story and his vision. He lives in an area that experiences violence and is extremely poverty stricken, where libraries and schools are few and far between, yet he travels with his burros to bring books to and teach the children there. She became aware that he was also trying to build a library himself in La Gloria. A filmmaker became so inspired that she created a PBS film about Luis, making his story known and allowing him to be named a CNN Hero. Monica herself contacted those who helped share Luis' story, and Luis himself. She told him that she wanted to write a book inspired by him, and he gladly gave her his blessing to do so. She had interviewed Luis and donated books to his library, and she decided to tell his story in an unusual way. Her story would be told from the perspective of a fictional girl, based on the children that Luis would bring books to in real life. She goes on to give a summary of the story.

About the Illustrator

John Parra began his journey to becoming an artist while growing up in Santa Barbara, CA. He explored and drew pictures of the landscape, wildlife, city, and his family members. His Hispanic roots and heritage gave him a wide array of inspiring, cultural imagery and customs. One can see the influence of Mexican mural artists, pop art, folk style paintings, surrealism, regional cuisine, outsider art, and cultural music and dance costumes in his work. John graduated from the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. He has taught art classes at the Carnegie Art Museum in Oxnard, CA and gives speeches at primary schools, college universities, and literary conferences across the U.S. He advocates art and reading education, and has received awards for his work.

About Luis Soriano

In the early 2000s, schoolteacher Luis Soriano began making treks on the weekend to bring books to the poorest children of Columbia in the interior of the Magdalena Province. This area is saturated by poverty and violence, yet Soriano braves the dangerous wildlife, terrain, drug traffickers, armed bands, and intense heat, along with his two donkeys Alfa and Beto, to bring books to children. He has attracted worldwide attention and is the man who inspired Waiting for the Biblioburro. In the book, both of his burros carry books, but in the video below I noticed that he seems to travel with only one burro at a time sometimes. What a huge load for just one burro!
Biblioburro- The donkey library

A Quote from Luis

"We are fighting what we call the farmer's ignorance. In a book we can find cities, cultures, rights, duties. A child that we educate today with the Biblioburro, is a child to whom we are teaching rights, duties and commitments. And a child who knows his rights, his duties and commitments is a child informed to say no to war. We are building Columbians of the future."

I found this quote from the video to be very powerful, and it gave me a deeper appreciation for this story. I also saw that Luis is building a library in the town of La Gloria with his wife, Diana. He houses over 3,000 books in his own home, and it is very hard for him to organize them and find the ones that he needs. He even has to house books at his friends' homes!

Research Findings

It is evident that the Hispanic roots of both the author, Monica Brown, and Illustrator, John Parra, contribute to the authenticity and charm of this children's book. Waiting for the Biblioburro features bright, Latino-inspired illustrations that draw the reader into the story. Though it is a fictional story inspired by the real life librarian and school teacher Luis Soriano, founder of the Biblioburro program, the story feels real. The lives of people living in a small rural village in Columbia are portrayed through pictures of gardening, nature, hard work, and sparse living conditions. Spanish words, animal sounds, and a glossary of Spanish terms add to the authenticity of the book, helping the story become an easy-to-cross cultural bridge which children can cross to learn about life in other parts of the world, other cultures, and other languages.


This book portrays cultural authenticity of characters, invites reflection, critical analysis, and response, and demonstrates unique language and style. One student in my placement classroom is bilingual, speaking Spanish along with English. Reading this story to the class will provide a representation of an important part of his heritage (language), while providing an opportunity for the other students in the class to experience an authentic story about life in a culture they may not have been exposed to. The story will also help all students reflect on standards of living around the world and on how important books and education really are to many people.

  • Cultural Authenticity of Characters. Because both the author and illustrator of Waiting for the Biblioburro have Hispanic roots and backgrounds, the story is brought to life with an undeniably Hispanic-Latino style. The setting shows the reader that the story takes place in a poor, rural community. A man is portrayed using a wheelbarrow to haul bricks and a woman is seen watering her garden with her baby in a sling on her back. Ana is doing farm chores and collecting eggs to sell at the market. The clothing worn by the characters is simple, another hint that the characters are poor and probably make their own clothing. As I observed in the videos about Luis Soriano, the children in this story are just as eager and excited to read and learn as the real children pictured in the videos. The fact that this story accurately depicts the lack of education and reading materials paired with the desire to read and learn in the children of Columbia greatly lends to its authenticity.
  • Invitation to Reflect, Critically Analyze, and Respond. Because this book authentically depicts the lives of Columbian children who have no access to an education or books, it offers many opportunities for children to reflect on how their own lives differ from those of these children. One section of the text reads, "When Ana wakes up to the roosters quiquiriqui, Papi is already at work on the farm and Mami is busy in the garden. Ana bathes her little brother and feeds the goats and collects the eggs to sell at the market." This is a typical day for Ana - she is awakened by a rooster crowing, takes care of her little brother, and performs farm chores. This is quite a difference from the typical day of a third grade student in Wichita. Students may make this connection on their own, but prompts will help them to reflect on the differences and similarities of life in a different community, critically analyze these differences and the problems that they may present to other children and families, and respond with ideas, connections, thoughts, and possibly ways to help raise awareness about and help with educational issues that people experience throughout the world. Another specific passage from the book that can be used to elicit such reflection, critical analysis, and responses is one that reads: "Ana has read her book, her only book, so many times she knows it by heart. The book was a gift from her teacher for working so hard on her reading and writing. But last fall, her teacher moved far away, and now there is no one to teach Ana and the other children in her village." Reflecting on, analyzing, and responding to ideas like this one will help children understand that not all children around the world have the privilege of an education, and it may prompt them to reflect on their own lives in impactful ways.
  • Demonstration of Unique Language and Style. Waiting for the Biblioburro contains many Spanish words, meaning that it definitely demonstrates unique language. Many children in the United States are not familiar with the Spanish language, so hearing these words may be new and unfamiliar to them. It also contains unique onomatopoeia such as "the rooster's quiquiriqui" and the "iii-aah, iii-aah!" of the burros. These unique words provide opportunities to engage students with a surprising sound effect. On top of these characteristics, the book has a distinctly Hispanic and simple style, lending authenticity to this story about normal people living simple lives.

Instructional Sequence

1. Ask students to gather around you on the floor.
2. Give CHAMPS expectations. "Conversation level will be at zero while I am reading. If you raise your hand and I call on you to answer a question, please answer at a level 2. If you'd like to ask a question, please raise your hand. We should be sitting still, listening to the story, and keeping our hands to ourselves. I want to see everyone paying attention to the story - it's a very good story!"
3. Introduce Waiting for the Biblioburro to students. "This is a story called Waiting for the Biblioburro (pronounced BEE-BLEE-OH-BOO-ROW), written by Monica Brown and illustrated by John Parra."
4. Ask students, "I want you to look at the cover of the book. Can you make some predictions about what might happen in the story?" Take responses from students and thank them for participating.
5. Ask students, "Is anyone familiar with the word Biblioburro? Does anyone have any ideas about what that word might mean or what language it is written in?" Take responses. Alessandro may offer an explanation at this point, as he speaks Spanish. If it has not been determined, let students know that this book features Spanish words.
6.Begin reading the first page and show students the illustration. The main character's name is pronounced AW-NUH (not Anna). If the topic has not yet been addressed, ask students, "Where do you think that this story takes place?" Does anybody have any ideas based on the illustration on this page?" Take responses and thank students for participating.
7. Continue reading the story. Be sure to give students an opportunity to view the pictures on each page. On page 3, onomatopoeia is present . Be sure to make the rooster noise (quiquiriqui, pronounced KEY-KEY-REE-KEY) loud. On page 4, the Spanish word libro is present. Be sure to pronounce this word as LEE-BRO. Make note of the Spanish word. Ask students, "So what did the word libro mean?" Students should reply that it means "book."
8. While on pages 3 and 4, ask students, "Did anybody notice that Ana didn't go to school? Why do you think that might be? What was she doing instead? What do you think Ana's parents do for a job?" Students may give a variety of answers.
9. Page 5 tells us that the teacher in Ana's town moved away. Ask students, "Ana's teacher moved away, and now there is nobody to teach the children in her village. Can that happen here in Wichita?" If students are unsure, ask them another prompt such as, "Has any one of you ever not had a teacher?" Let them know that it cannot happen in Wichita. The school district makes sure that there is always somebody to teach students, even if a teacher moves away.
10. On page 7, stop after reading the first sentence. The word cuentos is pronounced KWEYN-TOSE. Ask students, "What do you think the word cuentos means?" Help them look at the context - she makes up her own cuentos, and "tells the stories to her little brother." Cuentos means stories.
11. On page 9, more onomatopoeia is present. Read tacatac! as TAH-CAH-TAHK. Read iii-aah, iii-ah! as EEEE-AWWW, EEEE-AWWW (like a donkey).
12. On page 9, emphasize the word Biblioburro and burros (pronounced BOO-ROWS with a roll of the tongue at the two r's). Tell students, "There are those words again! What is a burro?" A burro is a donkey. Elaborate by asking students, "Have you ever met a donkey?" Ask students, "What is he using the burro for? Do you think that people still use burros to carry things? Why do you think that he would use burros to carry him and his books instead of a car?" Call on a student that has not answered a question yet. Take student responses and thank the students for participating.
13. On page 11, emphasize the word bibliotecario (pronounced BEE-BLEE-OH-TEK-AR-EE-OH). After reading "Welcome to the Biblioburro, my biblioteca" (pronounced BEE-BLEE-OH-TEK-UH), ask students, "What does biblioteca mean?" Any ideas?" Alessandro will most likely know this word.
14. Continue reading. After reading the rest of the text on page 11, ask students, "So, what is a biblioburro!?" Students should have made the connection that biblioteca means library and that a biblioburro is a moving library on burros. If students have not come to this conclusion, reread sentences that give clues and show the illustration again.
15. On page 13, emphasize the word abecedario (pronounced AH-BAY-SAY-DAR-EE-OH). As you sing the alphabet, it should sound like this: "AH BAY CAY DAY EY EFFAY HYAY." Ask students, "So what do you think that abecedario means?" Because you sang the Spanish alphabet to the same tune as the English alphabet, students should make the connection.
16. Ask the students, "Do you think that the librarian trusts the children in the village? Why would the children bring the books back to him when he comes back?"
17. On page 15 (after reading the first line), ask students, "What did cuentos mean again?" They should remember that it means stories.
18. After reading page 17, ask students, "Why would someone read until she can't keep her eyes open?" "Where do you think that the librarian is going?"
19. On pages 19 and 20, point out the dates in the illustration. Ask, "What do you think these words mean?" Students may notice that there are dates next to the words. These words are days of the week.
20. After reading page 21, ask students, "What does Que Bueno! (KAY-BWEN-OH) mean?" It means: "That's good!"
21. Finish reading the book.
22. After finishing the book, ask students, "So, how far would you go for a book? Imagine that you don't have any books to read. What would you do to get one?"
23. Ask students, "Do you think that your librarian would travel to bring a book to you? Why or why not?"
24. Tell students, "There are other places where children don't have access to many books. What are some other ways that you could get books to kids in places like these?" If students do not come up with the ideas in the "Author's Note" on the last page, read these to the students.
25. Ask students, "Why do you think that it is so important for kids to have books?"
26. Ask students, "Do you think that all kids should have access to books? Why?"
27. If time allows, show the video "Biblioburro- The donkey library" (or part of it) for students to watch. A summary of the video will have to be given after it is over, as students probably won't be able to read the subtitles fast enough.
28. Inform students that the book was based on a real person, Luis Soriano, who lives near La Gloria, Columbia. He is a teacher that travels through dangerous places to bring books to kids who don't have them.
29. Tell the students, "Luis is determined to get kids books. Luis has tenacity. Has anyone heard the word tenacity before? If Luis has tenacity and he is determined, can you predict what tenacity might mean?"
30. Write the definition of tenacity on the white board or Elmo: Tenacity - the quality or fact of being determined; determination.
31. Ask students, "Do you remember what the word cuentos means?" Take answers. Write the defition of cuento on the white board or Elmo: Cuento - a story or tale.
32. Explain to students, "We are going to write a cuento, a story, about tenacity, and we are going to illustrate the cover of our cuento. Please get one piece of notebook paper and a pencil."
33. Model for students with a piece of notebook paper on the Elmo: "I am going to write Ms. Dyer's Cuento on the top line of my paper, in the middle of the page. This is where you will put your title, but you will use your name instead of mine. I am going to indent my paragraph, and then I will start writing my cuento. Your cuento should be about tenacity. It can be a time that you had tenacity, a time when someone you know had tenacity, or you can make up a story about someone or something that was determined and had tenacity. You must include the vocabulary word tenacity in your story. If you want to describe someone and use the word as an adjective, you may use the word tenacious instead (write this on the Elmo or white board in an example statement: my dog is tenacious). As in, 'My dog is tenacious when he plays with a toy. He is determined and he won't let go.' Please use your best handwriting, write in complete sentences, try to spell things correctly, and don't forget capitalization and punctuation. You may talk quietly with one another at a level 1, but we will go to level 0 if talking becomes an issue. When you are finished with your cuento, please raise your hand and we will bring you a piece of paper to draw your cover illustration on. Please begin writing your cuentos!"
34. When students have finished writing their stories, give them a piece of construction paper. Ask them to fold it in half (if it is large enough to fit around the notebook paper like a book). If the construction paper is too small, they may use the entire piece to illustrate the cover of the cuento. Tell students, "Your cover should help us predict what your story is about, even if we haven't read it, just like the cover of Waiting for the Biblioburro let us see that the story was about a man who carries books on his donkeys. Be sure to include the main character of your story, and show how tenacious they are."
35. When student cuentos are completed, glue (provide glue sticks if necessary), staple the story inside the illustrated book cover, or staple the cover illustration on top of the story at the very top of both pieces of paper or on the sides, like a book binding.
36. If time allows, ask each student to stand up and summarize his/her cuento.
37. If time allows, ask for a couple of volunteers to share his/her cuento.
36. To wrap up the lesson, say to students, "Thank you all for your tenacity in finishing your cuentos! If there is ever a time that you don't have a book to read, you can always dream up and write your own story!"


  • This book was selected because it reflects the cultural heritage of a student who is a minority member of the class with regards to his heritage. This also means that the other students in the classroom have not had a great deal of experience with the cultural aspects of life in Latin America, allowing the story to give them a new and culturally diverse learning experience. The story shows great cultural authenticity and it offers students a look into the lives of children outside of the United States. The students' comprehension of the story was high, showing that the funds of knowledge that they already had helped them follow the story and predict things like setting, details, and what might come next. They were familiar with the tier one words used to tell the story, and they picked up on the meanings of the Spanish words in the story quickly. Because they were not already familiar with these Spanish words, they were able to experience an introduction to many basic Spanish words and see how these words would be used in everyday life and conversation. Introducing both a Spanish word and an English word as key vocabulary words in my vocabulary activity gave the students experience with two new words in a very interactive, culturally inclusive, and hands-on way.
  • The book was very engaging for students, which was a definite strength. I asked students many questions that allowed for a range of responses, allowing all students to participate in the discussion. Students were eager to respond to questions and offered interesting thoughts and predictions. I think that my pacing was steady throughout the read aloud, and I think that the book was the perfect length. The students had no trouble hearing me and I was able to read the book while showing the pictures to all students (because I had practiced this). My vocabulary lesson gave students direct experience with the key vocabulary words through writing, imagination, and drawing an illustration for their stories that reflected what the stories were about. When asked, students told me that they enjoyed the story. When I presented the video about the real Biblioburro and told students about Luis Soriano, the students were amazed to see that the story was based on a real person in a real place!
  • I really feel as if my lesson went better than I might have expected. If I had another chance to do this lesson with the same class, I would provide differentiation for those students who struggle with writing. I noticed that many of the students could not yet use proper grammar, punctuation, capitalization, word spacing, or indentation. This surprised me, as the students already took writing State Assessments this Spring. A worksheet that included indentation, a beginning phrase, and other writing tips and guidelines may have increased the readability of the stories of many of the students in my classroom (though I was able to decipher all of the stories - they were wonderful!).
  • Implementing multicultural children's literature that is culturally and linguistically diverse relative to my elementary students has expanded their worldview and understanding of education, access to educational materials, and ways of life around the world, exposed them to and given them hands-on experience with new, useful, and culturally diverse vocabulary that they may see in other pieces of literature or hear in conversation, and reflected and positively highlighted the cultural heritage of a student who does not often see his heritage reflected in the classroom, and who may experience negative portrayals of his heritage in the media now or in the future.

Smore by Chari Dyer

WSU Elementary Education Student Teacher Candidate
Proud owner of four burros (that will not tolerate being ridden)