Raising a Bilingual Kid Reading Culturally Significant Books Caramelo juanofwords

One of my favorite reads.

Shut up stupid!  That was the line that got Edgar cracking up last night while we were reading Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros.  This is my second time reading the book.  His first.  After that, it took me all of five minutes to get him to stop laughing en carcajadas so we could continue reading.

Okay… so the truth is I didn’t really try.

It was rather rewarding just to listen to him instead.

You see, we had just finished reading the story of Oliver Twist together a couple of days ago, and all of a sudden I thought What if I read Caramelo to him?  Would he enjoy it?  That was it.  My mind was made up, and our next read together would be sort of an experiment.  I guess you could say a blind experiment on one side.

An experiment in what? – you might ask.  In his bilingual and bicultural integration, I guess.  I’d like to tell you there was a very well thought out reason for wanting to test him on this, pero, well you all know me better than that.  I’m not that sophisticated.  I just want to see if he can relate to her story, and by how much.

Edgar has only been to Mexico when he was too young to remember.  Unlike me, his summers haven’t been spent running up and down the arroyos of a rancho, exploring the wonders of a foreign but familiar land, entertaining family with his English and pochismos.  Making everybody laugh when he can’t get more than a couple of sentences out in Spanish before blabbering a bunch of incomprehensible vocabulary in Spanglish.  He doesn’t know what it means to have to wait for running water.  To boil dirty green water from the local pond to take a bath instead.  To buy galletas by the pound.  To ride in the back of a pick up on the way to town.  To see a young kid his age hustling for the first time.  To feel guilty for having better things than everybody else.  And then having to experience the heartbreak of saying hasta pronto.

He doesn’t know, but I wondered if he would understand it.

At first, I think he was confused.  Now, I think he gets it.  How do I know?  By the smile on his face.  The giggling after certain paragraphs.  The way he just lays next to me mentally creating a picture of the words being read.  It’s something neither Anjelica or I ever had at his age.  To be able to see so much of ourselves, our culture, our families, in one book.  It’s making the second read of Caramelo, for me, very rewarding and satisfying on a whole new level.