Teaching Hispanic Heritage Month Using Spanish Books

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Angela Proto’s small class book collection is the first chapter of a new journey.

“I used to spend around $500 a year stockpiling books for my class,” Proto said.

What do you want to know

  • Angela Proto is a Spanish teacher at Presentation Academy
  • She builds a classroom library for Spanish readers
  • She uses books to teach students what makes each Spanish-speaking country unique
  • Teacher raises funds to expand library after losing most of her collection

The Spanish teacher taught in rural Texas for a decade before moving to Presentation Academy in Louisville.

She also left behind the thousands of dollars worth of Spanish pounds she collected over the years. Now she’s building a library at her new school and hopes it won’t take another decade.

“This is a book called Orion, and it’s about a Rottweiler who rescued people caught in landslides due to severe flooding in Venezuela,” Proto said, holding up a book.

Angela Proto, Spanish teacher at Presentation Academy, speaks English, Spanish and Japanese. She builds a classroom library with literature that explores different Spanish speakers. (Spectrum News 1/Ashley N. Brown)

Proto started learning Spanish when she was in middle school. She quickly understood that it was more than just a language.

That’s why she incorporates books that explore Spanish-speaking countries and their culture, history, and experiences into her course.

“Some issues covered in our books are natural disasters, health care, response, education, childcare, and government effects,” Proto says.

Proto has set up a GoFundMe hoping to raise $5,000 to make her vision for the library a reality.

Proto’s friends and family donated enough money to his fundraiser to help start the new library.

She says a book that cost $7 a few years ago now costs about $11, not including shipping, but she thinks the lessons of books like “Patricia va a California,” a book about a Guatemalan student, are invaluable.

“It just highlights to the rest of the world the negative stereotypes that Americans have and being insensitive to people from Latin American countries, and lumping all people together as being from one country or being from the same country when in fact the countries of South and Central America and Mexico and the Caribbean have wildly different cultures and traditions,” says Proto.

Maneno Tambo is in Pronto’s second level Spanish class.

She said she enjoys the combination of learning Spanish and the different experiences of the Hispanic community.

“I feel like culture and language make us who we are, part of who we are as humans and that’s the key to understanding other people and loving being there for them and loving being inclusive and loving diversity and stuff like that,” says Tambo.

Proto has a wish list of Spanish books she hopes to add to the library. It includes books of varying reading levels and those that she and her students have read and enjoyed over the years.

“[In] In the United States, we’re pretty monolingual compared to the rest of the world, and our students don’t really know or understand that,” Proto said. “Now we can do it. We can learn another language. You can discover other cultures, other media, literature, music, films and discover the world.

It proves that you can do one book at a time.

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