Multicultural Read Aloud!

By: Colin Gould

El Barrio

"El Barrio" By: Debbi Chocolate

Illustrated by David Diaz

Published by: Henry Holt and Company, LLC in 2009

"El Barrio"

This read aloud was prepared to be presented in front of a 1st grade class at Enterprise Elementary School. In "El Barrio" we learn about a young boy and how life is lived by the people in his neighborhood (El Barrio). He shows us that everything from vegetable garden lawns and salsa music, to Cinco De Mayo and Quinceaneras are commonplace for those of Hispanic descent. There are many reasons to celebrate life in "El Barrio".

The book has been highly regarded, and has even been considered in The New York Times 100 Best Children's Book list.

Author, Illustrator, and Culture of "El Barrio"

Debbi Chocolate has written dozens of children's books. Growing up the youngest of five she was always interested in the arts, and got her love of reading from her mother. She grew up wanting to paint, but eventually was led to the world of editing. She is a very well known writer of children's books and has won numerous awards for her contributions.

David Diaz has been drawing since he can remember. At first for fun, then as an outlet for personal struggles, Diaz has been a true artist for a majority of his life. In school he was inspired by teachers to participate in contests, many of which he won. He went on to do graphic design work, then moved over to illustrations later on. As an illustrator he has won awards such as his Caldecott Medal in 1995.

"El Barrio" discusses many traditional Hispanic activities. We learn about how some of the neighborhoods are filled with beautiful murals, and vegetable gardens instead of lawns. They discuss how quinceaneras are celebrated with music, dancing, and food. The girls give away their dolls to show they are entering womanhood. Salsa and tejano music are often chosen for celebrations. Typical celebrations include "Day of the Dead", "Cinco De Mayo", and birthdays. This book gives us a neat look at how Hispanic cultures celebrate life and death, and the illustrations are beautiful.

Book Evaluation

  • Demonstrate unique language or style - As far as the writing went, it did not go too in depth about the holidays except for quinceaneras. The language was fairly diverse, using words like "El Barrio", "Bolero", "La Iglesia", and corona. But what stood out to me was the illustrations that David Diaz created. They really gave life to the words Chocolate wrote.
  • Meet generally accepted criteria for the genre - "El Barrio" would be considered a multicultural children's picture book. In my opinion this book fully meets the criteria of this genre. There are lots of beautiful pictures that enhance the reading experience. The vocabulary used within the book is that of which is an appropriate level for children in primary grades. There is a noticeable multicultural aspect within the book with its Hispanic traditions and English language writing.
  • Includes members of a "minority" group for purpose other than filling a quota - Even though there is a high Hispanic population in the United State, a majority of people can gain insight into some traditions within the Hispanic culture. The purpose of the book is to teach about and show pride in how Hispanic people live.

Vocabulary Words

I chose two vocabulary words which enhance the readers experience of the book, as well as give insight into actual Hispanic culture.

  • "El Barrio" - These words are Spanish for "the neighborhood".
  • Murals - This word means a piece of artwork usually applied directly to a wall.

Implementation of Read Aloud and Vocabulary

  • First I introduced the book, including the title, author, and publisher.
  • Second I introduced my two vocabulary terms. I told them the meaning of the two words, and explained my activities for each. For "El Barrio" I told them every time I said the term I wanted them to repeat back to me "The Neighborhood". For murals, every time I said this word I wanted them to pretend they were painting a mural on a wall, but just in the air.
  • Third, I did a picture walk. As we went through the pages I asked them a couple of questions. I asked: "What do you notice about the neighborhood the boy lives in? How is it different than the neighborhood you live in?" I also stopped at the picture with the people dancing to music and asked: "What do you notice about this picture? What might they be celebrating? When have you been to a celebration like this?" Once I asked these questions I started the book.
  • Fourth I read through the book, stopping to ask a couple of questions. On the page with the pinata I asked "Where have you seen a pinata before? Why are they used during celebrations?" When I got to the picture with murals on the walls I asked "Where in Wichita might you see murals on the walls?" After getting my responses I finished the book.
  • Fifth on my list, after the book was done, I summarized and asked a one more question. We talked a bit about quinceaneras in the book, so I asked "How is a quinceanera like the birthday parties that you are used to? How is it different?"
  • Lastly, after everything was said and done I asked for questions, but mostly got comments. They enjoyed the book very much!


I chose this book for a couple of reasons. I looked in the public library for quite a while trying to find something related to what they were studying at the time, which was Native Americans. I could not find any books that were at the right level with actual substance. I started to search for other cultures and with some help came across this book. What really stood out were the pictures. They were bright and full of life. It helped that the text was short but to the point. Our classroom wealth of knowledge shows very little about Hispanic culture, even though we have a high Hispanic population in the class and the school. I wanted to bring something to the table that my class could get some use out of, and they seemed to enjoy it.

One of my strengths is how I read. I am used to reading to children, so I am pretty colorful. I know when I need to stop to let things sink in, and how to get the most out of each page. I think my strategy for the vocab words worked pretty well too.

What I definitely need to do different next time is give some better parameters for the voice level when repeating back the definition. At first the students were not getting into it. So I unwittingly told them to "go ahead and say it as loud as you want!" That was a bad idea. They got pretty noisy and may have interrupted other classes. I could have also taken more answers on my questions.

Implementing multicultural children's literature that is culturally and linguistically diverse relative to my elementary students has helped me better understand students with a similar background to those in the story. It has shown me the importance of, as well as how to treat topics that are culturally sensitive. It has shown me how to better prepare for a read aloud, and how to perform them future classes.