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April 12

Gary Soto, poet and children's writer, was born on this date in 1952.

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Gary Soto, poet and children's writer, was born on this date in 1952.

Grades K – 6
Calendar Activity Type Author & Text





Since he did not have books growing up, Soto regards his own emergence as a poet as "sort of a fluke." After working as a laborer, Soto entered college intending to major in geography. While in school he realized that he wanted to express himself as a writer. Soto's books and poetry present vivid pictures of life in a Mexican-American neighborhood.




Soto's stories and poetry evoke memories and images of home, family, and community. Use one of his works, such as Too Many Tamales or Baseball in April as a basis for exploring these themes. Try one of these activities:

  • Too Many Tamales is about a family preparing food for their Christmas celebration, and the children who share in the preparations. Invite students to share a story about their part in a special family event. Extend this idea using the lesson My Family Traditions: A Class Book and a Potluck Lunch, which asks students to share recipes and information about their own family traditions.

  • The streets and neighborhoods of Fresno, California are an integral part of Soto's stories. Invite students to describe their street.

  • Ask students to compose an acrostic poem that describes a person, place, or event they cherish using the Acrostic Poems interactive tool.



  • Gary Soto's website

    Visit Soto's official website for information about the author. Visitors can find a catalog of his works, biographical information, and frequently asked questions.


  • Meet the Author: Gary Soto

    Houghton Mifflin provides this brief biography of Soto, along with a selected bibliography and a recipe for one of Soto's favorite foods-frijoles.


  • Gary Soto

    This essay, provided by Georgetown University, offers classroom strategies for working with Soto's poems, as well as information about the major themes and style elements found in his work.


  • Gary Soto: Bookfest 01

    In this Webcast from the Library of Congress, Soto discusses his writing and reads selections from his novel "Poetry Lover" at the 2001 National Book Festival.



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Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Unit

When I Was Young In...A Literature to Language Experience

Past meets present in this lesson in which students practice verb tense when they write personal short stories that they then publish in a flip book.


Grades   1 – 2  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Acrostic Poems: All About Me and My Favorite Things

Students create acrostic poems using their names and the names of things that are important to them.


Grades   1 – 2  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Whose Shoes? Using Artifacts to Teach Reading and Rhyming Patterns

If the shoe fits… Actually, any shoe will fit this lesson, and the Artifact Analysis Questions provided will help students see it in a whole new way. Several rhyming texts take the shoe theme a step further, and introduce activities to increase students' awareness of rhyming words.


Grades   3 – 5  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Using Picture Books to Teach Setting Development in Writing Workshop

Students use a graphic organizer to analyze setting development in picture books. They then apply what they have learned to their own writing.


Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Imagine That! Playing with Genre through Newspapers and Short Stories

Students identify genre characteristics for short stories and newspaper articles then practice both genres by turning a short story into a news article and an article into a short story.