With English translations by Rosa Zubizarreta, Alma Flor Ada uses simple poems and illustrations to tell the stories of migrant farm workers in orchards and farm fields. Simple poems in English and Spanish, one for each letter of the Spanish alphabet, describe the wonders of fruits and vegetables and the experience of farm life.
Before, During and After Reading
Introduce the story. Talk about the title and author of the book and explain that it includes poems in English and Spanish.
Talk about the difference between narrative writing and poetry. For example, you might talk about the ways that poetry uses language that often includes rhythm and rhyme, and it is carefully chosen to create a specific emotional response. You can also talk about the difference between a poet and an author. You might say: Poets usually use words and phrases that help you make a picture in your mind. Sometimes, they say two very different things that are actually alike. They do that to help us use our imaginations. One example from the book is this: My flowers form a rainbow. So the poet uses words to help us imagine colorful flowers in the colors and shape of a rainbow. Go to children’s dictionaries to locate simple definitions of poetry, poem, poet, metaphor, simile, etc.
Relate the story to your child’s experiences. Talk about some of your child’s favorite fruits and vegetables. Has your child ever thought about the people who help harvest this food? Tell your child that this book is about the lives of people who are farm workers and who raise and harvest food for everyone to eat.
Ask questions. As you read the poems, point out metaphors and similes that the poet uses and ask your child to interpret them. For example, the first poem, “Trees,” talks about Companions of my childhood, handsome green giants. After you read the poem, ask your child what the poet was talking about when she used those words and what feelings the words convey. In the poem "Watering," the poet writes, Your smiles to your friends are like water to growing plants. Ask your child what she thinks the poet means by that.
Use creative expressions and figurative language during the day when you talk with your child. For example, you might say I am as hungry as a bear!; You are being as quiet as a mouse; and It is as cold as ice in here. Ask your child what she thinks you mean by those types of expressions.
Try the reading activity Illustrate the Poem, or explore more recommended children's books for five-year-olds. You might also take the Preschool Reading Screener for parents of three- to five-year-olds; it will help you measure your child's progress on the path to reading readiness.