Esperanza, who lives with her Mama, Papa, and Abuelita on their ranch in Mexico, believed her life would be wonderful forever. When a sudden tragedy shatters their world, Esperanza and Mama are forced to flee to California and settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers.
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.
In the interview “Memories Of A Former Migrant Worker,” Felix Contreras questions his father about his past experiences as a migrant worker.
Read this interview before starting Esperanza Rising to build background knowledge about the characters’ experiences in the novel. Have students discuss Luis Contreras’s daily life as a migrant worker and the challenges he and his family faced. Tell students that as they read Esperanza Rising, they will be thinking about similar themes of family and overcoming adversity.
In Sandra Cisneros’s “Eleven,” a girl is forced to wear a sweater that doesn’t belong to her on her birthday.
Read this short story after the “Cebollas/Onions” chapter to have students consider connections between age and life experience. In this chapter, Esperanza is embarrassed that she doesn’t know how to sweep the floor or wash diapers like eight-year-old Isabel. Have students discuss the reasons why Esperanza knows less about chores and hard work than Isabel. Then, have students discuss why Rachel, the narrator of “Eleven,” feels younger than her age. Ask students to compare Esperanza’s and Rachel’s feelings. Ask, “How do Isabel’s youth and capabilities make Esperanza feel? How are Esperanza’s feelings in this chapter similar to Rachel’s feelings in ‘Eleven?’” Students may describe the disconnect between Esperanza’s age and life experience and the disconnect between Rachel’s age and how she feels inside.
In the fable “The Little Girl Who Would Not Work,” retold by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, a little girl would rather play than work.
Read this fable after the “Papas/Potatoes” chapter to have students think about character change. In this chapter, Esperanza starts working with the other women in the packing shed. Have students discuss why Esperanza decides to get a paying job. Then, have students discuss the lesson the main character learns in “The Little Girl Who Would Not Work.” Ask students to compare and contrast Esperanza’s experience with that of the little girl in “The Little Girl wHo Would Not Work.” Ask, “How has Esperanza’s perspective changed since the beginning of the story? How is Esperanza’s experience similar to and different from the experience of the little girl in the passage?” Students may draw on the importance of hard work and give examples of Esperanza’s resilience.
In Maude Barrows Dutton’s retelling of the folktale, “The Rich Man and the Bundle of Wood,” a Rich Man doesn’t pay a Poor Man enough for the wood he brings him.
Read this folktale after the “Aguacates/Avocados” chapter to have students build on their thinking about character change. At the end of this chapter, Esperanza gives the piñata she bought for her sick mother to the children in the migrant camp. Have students compare how Esperanza acts in this chapter to how she reacted earlier in the story in the “Guayabas/Guavas” chapter when the young girl tried to touch her doll on the train. Then, have students discuss the theme of “The Rich Man and the Bundle of Wood.” Have students compare the ways Esperanza has changed to the theme of “The Rich Man and the Bundle of Wood”. Ask students, “How has Esperanza changed since the beginning of the story? How is what Esperanza has learned similar to what the Priest tried to teach the Rich Man in ‘The Rich Man and the Bundle of Wood?’” Students may share ideas about wealth and poverty, kindness, and compassion.
In J. Patrick Lewis’ poem “The Child,” a speaker describes the childhood experiences of the Civil Rights activist Sylvia Mendez.
Read this poem after the “Duraznos/Peaches” chapter to extend students’ learning about the prejudice Isabel faced in school. In this chapter, Isabel is not chosen as Queen of the May, despite having the best grades in her class. Have students discuss why Esperanza is angry about Isabel’s loss. Then, share the real-life context behind the poem “The Child,” which can be found in the student introduction to the text. Discuss Sylvia Mendez’s role in desegregating schools in California as a young girl. Ask students to compare Isabel’s and Sylvia’s experiences. Ask, “How is Isabel’s experience at school similar to Sylvia’s experience in the poem?” Be sure to have students share specific details from the text and the poem to support their thinking.
In Tupac Shakur’s “The Rose That Grew from Concrete,” the speaker describes a flower that grew in an unlikely place.
Read this poem after finishing Esperanza Rising to have students analyze the main themes of the novel. Have students discuss how Esperanza has changed throughout the story and why. Then, have students discuss the theme of the poem “The Rose that Grew from Concrete.” Ask students to compare Esperanza to the rose. Ask, “How is Esperanza like the rose in the poem? What challenges did she face and how did she overcome them?” Students’ responses may draw on themes of grief and loss, hope and rebirth, and resilience.