The walkway at this summer's Migrant/ESOL conference
in Wichita, Kansas, was filled with publishers' booths, and
I did my best to visit at each one. But perhaps the most
intriguing booth was simply titled "Grandma's Tortillas,"
which was the only book they were promoting. Behind
the table were Susan Felicia Martinez and her family,
including her mother. I stopped to talk with them and
discovered in the process the story behind this wonderful
Here is how the story begins:
Grandma makes the best tortillas. That's because
she had the best teachers. Her father and mother, who
came to America from Guanajuato, Mexico, taught
Grandma how to make tortillas when she was a young
girl....Now Grandma is teaching me.
It is a 14-page story, illustrated with photographs
of Susan Martinez's daughters helping their grandmother
as they learn each step of the tortilla-making process.
Some of the key vocabulary used on the first page of
this easy-to-read story:
bleached wheat flour dough
separate and roll out
flat white circles
There are helpful, thematic headings for each
section of the story: "Kitchen Utensils," "Ingredients,"
"From Flour to Dough," "Kneading the Dough,"
"Dough Balls," "Rolling Tortillas," "Cooking Tortillas"
and "Taste Testing."
At the end of the story, Susan Martinez has included
very clear, concise instructions for "Grandma's Tortilla
Recipe," so that readers and their families can recreate
the experience they have learned about in the book.
I showed "Grandma's Tortillas" to someone at the
conference who is responsible for helping new families
from Mexico get oriented and adjust to life in central
Kansas. She said that she thought she could use
this story as a vehicle for children and their parents
to share the experience of learning to read English
as they also honor their traditions.
It would be a powerful book for new Spanish-speaking
immigrants to learn how to read English by focusing
on content which is relevant to their lives and their
traditions. It is a practical way to give learners direct
access to English. You can imagine teachers and
students enjoying using the "Grandma's Tortillas"
story as a classroom text, and perhaps even cooking
tortillas together in the process.
The book is available through World Association Publishers,
205 Fifth Avenue, Tarentum, Pennsylvania 15084. The ISBN number
You can also obtain the book through IndyBook.com.
Review by Robb Scott, Hays, KANSAS
2003 ESL MiniConference Online