Esperanza is a young girl forced to leave behind a life of luxury in Mexico for a farm workers camp in California. The new experience brings Esperanza timeless lessons on life and love.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
7th Grade Informational Text 1100L
Mexican Migrant Workers in the 20th Century
Passage Summary: This informational text describes the hard lives of Mexican-Americans and immigrants who became migrant workers throughout the 20th century in the United States.
When and How to Pair: Introduce this text before students begin the novel, in order to provide background context on Mexican migration to California in the mid-1900s. Ask students to discuss what they learn from the text about Mexican migrant families and their living conditions. How did immigrants adapt to their their new environment? How were workers treated by farm owners? Ask students to consider these ideas as they read the novel, and to take notes on how Esperanza’s conditions compare to those described in the article.
8th Grade Speech 750L
Ain't I a Woman?
Passage Summary: Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) was an African American women’s rights activist and abolitionist. “Ain’t I a Woman?” is her most famous speech, delivered impromptu at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in 1851, in which she argues that all women — regardless of skin color — should be granted the same rights as all men.
When and How to Pair: Have students read this speech on inequality after reading the “Grapes” chapter, which introduces class and gender divides, in order to bolster their knowledge of inequity. Both the novel and Truth’s speech raise questions on what is fair, and why circumstances differ for different people. Have students discuss Truth’s main message on everyone having the same rights. Who does she say should have the same rights as white men? Ask students why Esperanza cannot be a landowner and how she is different from Miguel.
5th Grade Informational Text 1020L
Workers’ Rights and the History of Labor Unions
Passage Summary: This article provides a brief history of labor unions, including common tactics and important advances in workers’ rights.
When and How to Pair: Introduce this article to students before they begin reading the “Guavas” chapter, in order to provide background information on Marta’s and the workers’ motivations for striking in the chapter. Ask students to discuss the benefits and risks of going on strike, as presented in the article. As students read, have them consider what similar risks the characters are taking in the novel.
5th Grade Non-Fiction 670L
Diary of a Teenage Refugee
Passage Summary: This account comes from a 16-year-old Syrian girl named Amira and details the past three years of her life in a refugee camp in the neighboring country of Lebanon.
When and How to Pair: Introduce this text after students have read the “Onions” chapter, when Esperanza arrives at the Mexican workers camp and experiences a drastic change in lifestyle. This text can provide further insight into Esperanza’s living conditions and help students to make real-world connections to the novel’s central ideas. Ask students to compare the experiences of Amira and Esperanza for similarities and differences. What caused them to leave home? How did they both experience fear at the camps? Ask students to compare and contrast their homesickness.
5th Grade Poem
The Lighthouse Lamp
Passage Summary: In Margaret E. Sangster’s poem “The Lighthouse Lamp,” a brave girl saves sailors during a storm when she keeps the lamp burning in her family’s lighthouse.
When and How to Pair: Have students read this poem after they have read the “Potatoes” chapter, in order analyze character through a cross-comparison between Gretchen and Esperanza. Both girls prove to be brave in a time of need and appear to act beyond their years. Ask students to compare and contrast Gretchen and Esperanza’s acts of bravery and the effect it has on others. How would students compare Esperanza’s and Gretchen’s experiences?
5th Grade Poem
The Rose That Grew from Concrete
Passage Summary: In Tupac Shakur’s “The Rose That Grew from Concrete,” the speaker describes a flower that grew in an unlikely place.
When and How to Pair: Have students read this poem after they’ve read the “Peaches” chapter, in order to support a thematic discussion on hope and overcoming adversity. In this chapter, several characters face disheartening challenges, but hope is restored in the end by Papa’s roses and reunions. Here you can ask students the question, “What similar themes do the poem and the novel share? What are some events in the novel, that Esperanza experiences, that might represent the ‘concrete’ that the speaker in Shakur’s poem describes?
8th Grade Myth 1110L
The Phoenix Bird
Passage Summary: In the short story, “The Phoenix Bird,” Hans Christian Andersen discusses the origins and influence of the mythical Phoenix.
When and How to Pair: After completing the book, have students read this text — in order to help them analyze metaphor and symbolism. Esperanza is metaphorically referred to as a bird and there are references to the Phoenix throughout the book. These metaphors and references relate to the myth of the Phoenix bird rising from ashes and serving as guidance, in connection with the fire at El Rancho de las Rosas and Esperanza’s relationship with the land. Ask students to discuss how Esperanza’s story is like that of the myth. They should also consider the book’s title in connection with the tale of the Phoenix.