Multi-cultural Read Aloud

Once Upon a Time: Traditional Latin American Tales

"Once Upon a Time/Habia una vez: Traditional Latin American Tales/Cuentos tradicionales latino americanos"

Written by: Rueben Martinez

Illustrated by: Raul Colon

This read aloud is planned for fourth grade. "Once Upon a Time/Habia una vez" is a story book that explores 7 different folktales in the Latin American society. At the end of each story, the author writes the origin of the folktale which will help students understand the history of it.

This book is written in a dual language format, demonstrating both the English and Spanish language. There are not many illustrations, but the illustrations that are present are very intricate. With the little illustrations, this book can be seen to be focused more towards older students. This book was written to share different folktales with students of different cultures. The author urges parents to discuss with their children the meaning and feelings of each character in the different folktales.

Rueben Martinez Embracing Literature, Strengthening Communities

Rueben Martinez

Rueben Martinez is a lover of literature. In the preface of this text, he says, "I decided to spread the word about the importance of reading to as many people as possible". He opened a bookstore in order to bring awareness to Latino literature. These are the stories he grew up with and the stories that he knows all children will love to hear. In the video, he speaks very passionately about literature. He credits his passion of reading to his mother. When Rueben was younger, he loved to read, but his parents did not like him reading. One day, he was reading and his mother came in and told him to go outside. When he came back inside, he found his book in the fire. This is what made him love reading even more.


Since this book is a collection of Latin American Tales, it is rich in cultural details. At the end of each story, it tells the origin of the story and the history of different cultures it has been through. The book also demonstrates unique language. It is presented in a dual-language format, meaning that on one side it tells the story in English and on the other side it is presented in Spanish. The author, Rueben Martinez, wrote it like this because he wanted children of different cultures to enjoy the stories he grew up with. This book also honors celebrates diversity in the same way. These stories have been passed on from generation to generation and even different countries. This book was chosen for this field placement because it is a different way of looking at folk tales which is what their teacher will soon be teaching them. This book also gives them a chance to see what stories other children of different cultures have listened to growing up.

Vocab Words

Preservation: the action of maintaining something in its original state

Folktale: a traditional cultural story passed down from generation to generation sometimes involving a lesson

Talking Notes

  1. Provide students with a piece of printer paper and have them draw a diagonal line across it. They are to write "preservation" on one side of the diagonal and "folktale" on the other side. Model it for students using the document camera.
  2. Have a discussion and ask students what they think each word means. They can share with their shoulder partner and then have volunteers raise their hands to share what they said.
  3. Tell students the definition of preservation and have them retell it to their shoulder partner. Then they can write it in a sentence on their paper and they can illustrate it. Do the same with the vocab word folktale.
  4. Before reading, ask students "have you heard a folktale?" have them give examples if they have some - Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill
  5. Introduce the folktale "Mother of the Jungle" as a Traditional Latin American Folktale
  6. Show students the first picture and start reading the story.
  7. During reading when it says "Sebastian ... knew that what the man was doing was wrong" ask students "Do you think what the man was doing was wrong? Why or why not?"
  8. During reading when it says "A strange noise from the jungle woke him up." ask students "What do you think will happen next?"
  9. After reading, ask students "why would the Mother of the Jungle want to protect it?" - she is like a mother defending the animals and plants in her jungle
  10. After reading, ask students "what can you, as fourth graders, do to preserve the earth?" - recycle, pick up trash, turn off lights and faucets, reuse things
  11. To end the lesson, have students do a gallery walk where they walk around and view other students word posters. Conversation level should be a 0 during this activity.


This book was selected because they are about to be learning more about folktales with their regular classroom teacher. This book was also chosen to help the students understand more about cultural diversity. There is not much diversity in the classroom, so this book helped them to learn more about Latin American culture.

The biggest strengths, I would say, from this read aloud were the questions I asked. The questions had the students really thinking and they were coming up with some very good answers. I had the students who do not usually pay attention raising their hands with answers to my questions. I had the first question as "what kind of folktales have you heard of?" but, the vocabulary part of my lesson did not go as planned so I had to change the question to "what do you think this story is about?" after I told them that the name was "Mother of the Jungle". This had the students thinking and they had very good answers.

Next time, I need to model the vocabulary section. I did not plan it well enough because I did not come up with sentences for the words, myself. If I had done that, I could have modeled it on the board and they would have been able to come up with better sentences on their own.

Implementing multicultural children's literature that is culturally and linguistically diverse relative to my elementary students has made me realize how interested students are in listening to different stories from different cultures. They have never heard these stories before so they are completely new to them. Students can be very interested in new and exciting stories.