Dear Primo A Letter to My Cousin

A Multicultural Book

In 2010, "Dear Primo A Letter to My Cousin" was published by ABRAMS Publishing in New York, NY.

o Honorable Mention from Pura Belpré – 2011
o Notable Book – Global Society List
o Included on the First Book Latino Culture & Heritage Collection for Elementary

o Americas Award commended title

“Dear Primo A Letter to My Cousin” was written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh. This was Tonatiuh’s first picture book. Tonatiuh has lived in both in Mexico and America, and can relate to the two cultures he wrote about in his book. The illustrations in this book were hand drawn and then digitally colored and collaged. Tonatiuh used an ancient Mexican artform within his illustrations.

Duncan Tonatiuh
This read aloud is planned for second graders. "Dear Primo A Letter to My Cousin" is about two cousins who write letters back and forth to each other. One cousin lives in Mexico and one cousin lives in America. They see that though their lives are different, they are similar in many ways too. Spanish words are scattered within the english text of the book.
This book demonstrates unique language by incorporating two languages within one book. There are spanish words embedded into the english text throughout the book. This allows students to use context clues to figure out meaning of these spanish words they read. The format of this book is appealing there is text above the pictures. The most appealing part that pictures are labeled in Spanish which can help children learn Spanish words. There are minority groups included in this book for a purpose other than filling a 'quota." The main characters of this book are Hispanic and there are some African American and Caucasian characters throughout the story, too. They are portrayed at places such as the store, in the neighborhood, and riding the subway.

Procedures for implementing the read aloud and vocabulary presentation

  1. State behavior expectations: CHAMPS.
  2. Show the students the cover, and read the title, author, illustrator.
  3. Ask the students: By looking at the cover, what two cultures do you think this story will be about? Mexican and American
  4. Ask the students: The cover uses two languages, what are those two languages? Spanish and English
  5. Introduce unfamiliar vocabulary to students, such as the following: (a) Traditions- beliefs and customs that are handed down. Ask students to draw a tradition their family has, and then share it with a partner. (b) Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead)-a holiday celebrated on November 1st to remember family members and friends that have died. This is a very old Mexican tradition. Have students share with a partner if they celebrate a holiday similar to this.
  6. Have the students in partners locate where Mexico and the United State are on the world maps that have been provided to the students.
  7. Begin reading the book. When Spanish words arise in the book, have students repeat the word in Spanish and in English.
  8. On the page with the boys eating pizza (there are no page numbers), ask the students: How can you figure out what the Spanish words mean in English without having definitions in front of you?
  9. Continue reading until you get to the end of the book.
  10. Ask students: How is life different in Mexico than life in America? We eat different kinds of food pizza and more fast food options in America more home cooked in Mexico. In Mexico, they go to an outdoor market where they sell and buy food, whereas in America people go to a supermarket to buy food. In America, we celebrate Halloween. In Mexico they celebrate Dia de los Muertos, but the holidays are only one (1) day apart. In Mexico, Carlitos lives on a farm. In America, Charlie lives in a skyscraper. In Mexico, Carlitos rides his bike to school. In America, Charlie rides the subway to school. In Mexico, Carlitos plays soccer, whereas in America, Charlie plays basketball. In Mexico, people do more outside activities. What similarities do you notice about life in Mexico and life in America? We both eat food. We both write letters. We both live with our families. We both go to school. We both play sports. Both cultures eat snacks after school. Both play after homework is done. Both of the boys have homework. Both play in water when it is hot. Both play with friends. Both buy food. Both boys have celebrations. Both go watch tricks done by other people. Both celebrate hoildays. I will be making a venn diagram with their answers on the smart board.
  11. Ask students how they would keep in touch with their cousin if they lived far away? Call them. Write them letters. Write them emails. FaceTime. Skype. Facebook.
  12. Have students write a letter to a real or pretend cousin that lives far away. Sentence stems will be up on the SmartBoard.

Dear __________________________,

How have you been? I have been ____________________________. My favorite things to do are _______________________________________. What about you? It is _______________

where I live. Tell me about where you live. I hope to hear from you soon.



13. Have students turn in their letters to me, and read silently until everyone is done.


  • El Primo A Letter To My Cousin was selected, because there are no Hispanic students in this class. I wanted to expose the students to something they did not already know about. There is a lot of emphasis on other cultures, but not the Hispanic culture. People cannot appreciate what they do not understand.
  • The strengths of the read aloud/the picture book/ vocabulary teaching presentation was that it engaged the children. They do not know much about the Hispanic culture, and they seemed curious about it. They were also intrigued by the Spanish words. The students were impressed that we could figure out the meaning of the Spanish words just by pictures and context clues. They learned they can apply this knowledge to other books, too. The students also learned that even though people are from different places, we all still have a lot in common.
  • The only things I would do differently next time would be to modify the letter writing portion of the read aloud even more than I did. Next time, I will provide the lower children with their own copies of the sentence stems, so they can just fill in the blanks, instead of having to copy all of the words from the smart board. Also, I will speak louder to my students because my CT said I was too quiet. I am working on developing my "teacher voice."
  • Implementing multicultural children's literature that is culturally and linguistically diverse relative to my elementary students has helped me realize that children won't actively go out and seek information about what they do not know. It is our job as educators to inform our students and make them the most culturally educated people they can be. When students understand that even though cultures are different, all cultures have some similarities. Exposure to different cultures might help the students become more tolerant of other cultures, both as children and then adults.