Pura Belpré was a champion storyteller and the first Puerto Rican/Latina librarian in New York City, but many of us only know her name from the award named in her honor. This Latinx Heritage Month (Hispanic Heritage Month) learn more about the trailblazing woman behind the famous children’s book award. Scroll down for a review of a new children’s book about her life!
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Pura Belpré: Latinx Heritage Month
Pura Belpré had a gift for stories and an especial love for tales from her native Puerto Rico. But when she became a children’s librarian in New York (the first Latina library in New York City), she saw that these stories were not being told to the children.
Pura Belpré filled that gap by telling the cuentos (or stories) that she grew up with. She also saw that many of the children of other immigrant families were not participating in the library and made an effort to invite and include them as well.
One of her innovative ideas was to create bilingual story times, something we have personally benefited from. She was the first librarian to hold bilingual story times in New York!
Today her legacy is honored in the Pura Belpré Award, given annually to the Latinx illustrator and author whose work best celebrates the Latinx experience. Here are the 2021 winners:
Pura Belpré: New Children’s Book
And for a lovely new book about Pura Belpré herself!
Pura’s Cuentos: How Pura Belpré Reshaped Libraries with Her Stories is a wonderful way to share the story of this Latinx heroine with children. This beautiful book pays tribute to this pioneering librarian, who made such a difference for so many children, not just in New York City but throughout the country. It tells of her early love of stories and her journey to bringing those stories into the library, and in turn bringing more children into the library as well.
The vibrant illustrations capture Belpré’s joy for storytelling, catching the reader up in the same enthusiasm that the children in the library must have felt on the rug at story time. The story of Pura Belpré is a wonderful way to teach our children the power of stories to bridge cultures.