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Books del Sur curates Latin America Spanish-language literature to support dual language curriculum.
Books del Sur curates Latin America Spanish-language literature to support dual language curriculum.
image of a book exhibit

Celebrate Writing with Cartonera Books

This year to celebrate our students' writing we are creating "Star Center Cartonera" or a cardboard book publishing house.  The cartonera phenomenon started in Argentina with Eloisa Cartonera in order to support the cardboard collectors, recycle cardboard, and make books more accessible to people by providing books at a low cost.  We love the idea of having our students recycle cardboard to learn about the environment and publish their writing in a book. The following is a guide for you to join us and create your own cartonera!

Step 1:  Introduce Cartoneras & Collect Cardboard Time: 10 minutes – 1 hour

Activity Suggestions Grades K & 1

The story of the first Cartonera told by Mrs. Robertson with her fingers :)

Activity Suggestions Grades 2nd – 5th

  •  Have students pick one and share their location on a map.
  •  Mark the map as you go so that in the end they can see the number and their locations.
  • Make observations about where they are located.
  1. Argentina (Eloísa Cartonera, Editorial Retazos , Ñaisandy Cartonera, Textos de Cartón)
  2. Bolivia (Yerba Mala Cartonera, Nicotina Cartonera, Rostro Asado Cartonera)
  3. Brazil (Dulcinéia Cartonera, Estação Catadora, La Katarina Kartonera, Severina Catadora, Sereia Ca(n)tadora)
  4. Chile (Animita Cartonera, Canita Cartonera, Helecho de Cartonera, Olga Cartonera)
  5. Colombia (Amapola Cartonera, Delahogado Elsombrero Cartonera, Patasola Cartonera)
  6. Costa Rica (Cartonera Tica)
  7. El Salvador (La Cabuda Cartonera, Pirata Cartonera)
  8. Ecuador (Dadaif Cartonera, Matapalo Cartonera)
  9. France (Cephisa Cartonera, Babel Cartonnière, La Guêpe Cartonnière)
  10. Italy (FernAnda Pappetrice)
  11. Mozambique (Kutsemba Cartão)
  12. Panama (Pelo Malo Cartonera)
  13. Paraguay (Mamacha Kartonera, MBurukujarami Kartonéra, Yiyi Jambó Cartonera)
  14. Peru (Sarita Cartonera, Casa Katatay, Qinti Qartunira)
  15. Portugal (Bela Cartonera)
  16. Puerto Rico (Atarraya Cartonera)
  17. Spain (Aída Cartonera, Cartonera Island, Cartonerita Niñabonita, Cartopiés Cartonera, Ediciones Karakartón, La Verónica Cartonera, Meninas Cartoneras, Paquita Cartonera, Pensaré Cartoneras, Ultramarina Cartonera)
  18. Uruguay (La Propia Cartonera)
  19. Mexico (Cartonera La Cecilia, Cohuiná Cartonera, Cuxtitali Cartonera, Kodama Cartonera, La Cartonera, La Ratona Cartonera, La Rueda Cartonera, Regia Cartonera, Santa Muerte Cartonera)


Instruct students to bring in cardboard (no pizza boxes) so that you can start cutting it for their cartonera books.  This is the important first step in building a community around your cartonera, so even if students bring in unwanted cardboard celebrate it!

Photo of a student in a classroom, standing amidst a large collection of cardboard boxes.

Step 2:  Students Select Writing from their Treasure Chests (Portfolios)image depicts a desk full of papers

Time: 10 – 30 minutes

Have students review their writing from the year.  Mrs. Laffin’s Laughings suggests keeping the writing in a “Treasure Chest” Have the students look at their writing and select one piece that they would like to publish in a cartonera book.   My only suggestion is that it’s their favorite and they feel confident they can illustrate it.

Step 3: Students select writing paper

Paper Options
  • Cartonera Paper K
  • Cartonera Paper 1-2
  • Cartonera Paper 3
  • Cartonera Paper 3 v2
  • Cartonera Paper 4-5
  • Cartonera Paper 4-5 v2

Step 4: Students Re-Write and Illustrate Story/Essay

Time: 20 – 60 minutes

Students write on writing paper (have them only write not illustrate because the next step you will discuss illustrations and it is important that the words are on the paper before illustrating so that they coordinate.) Some things to consider:

  • Do you want students to write in pen?
  • Do you want students to revise/edit their work before re-writing?

Step: 5:  Students Illustrate Story/Essays

Time: 30 minutes – 2 hours

Activity Suggestion

Watch one or both of the videos with illustrator Rafael Lopez Becoming a children’s book illustrator Illustrating a Story – The Life of Celia Cruz Afterwards Discuss:

  • How does Rafael Lopez illustrate books?
  • What does he mean when he says we “read from top to bottom”?
  • How will you use these ideas to illustrate your book?
Some things to consider:
  • What materials can they use to illustrate?
  1. Paint
  2. Crayons
  3. Colored pencils
  4. Markers
  5. Paper
  6. Digital Media
  • Explore picture books and discuss what was used to create the illustrations.
  • Do the students have a time limit?

Step 5: Making the Book Covers

Time: 30 minutes – 2 hours (Before this step you or volunteers will need to cut the cardboard.  You will need cardboard pieces for the small books (3rd – 5th) that are 9.5 x 12 inches and/or pieces for the larger books (K-2) that are 9.5 x 24 inches.  You will need to score them in the middle so that they fold easily.) Students should complete a rough draft on their cartonera book cover with a template.  Then our students at Star Center School will take them to art class and have paints, markers, and fabric to create their covers.  If you are not able to do this you may want to consider creating those stations for students to make their draft covers come to life on the cardboard.

collage of four photos showing different objects of a classroom

Cover Templates

  • Cartonera Book Cover Template K-2

  • Cartonera Book Cover Template K-2 v 2

  • Cover Templates 3-5

Step 6:  Assembling the Cartonera book

Time: 30 minutes – 2 hours This can be done in a variety of ways.  You can staple the pages together with an additional page in the front and back to glue onto your recycled cardboard cover.  Or you can sew the pages together then glue them on the cardboard. Materials you will need:
  • Recycled Card Board (For grades K-3 cut into 9.5 x 24-inch pieces.  For grades 3-5 cut into 9.5 x12 pieces.)
  • Student writing – final copies on the writing template

Step 7: Celebration

After all, cycles have been completed, before the end of the academic school year, students will have an exhibition where they will officially present their books to the public. I created bookmarks for our school for each student to remember our project and to put our school on the cartonera map!

Download mine and change the name to your school's name! Cartonera Celebration Bookmark Share with us if you do this in your school or classroom!  We love to collaborate :)

In the first year of cartoneras we gathered all of the students in the cafeteria to share their stories with each other.  We mixed classes by giving them bookmarks when they arrived the students then sat at the table with the country represented on their books mark.  In order to ensure students talked to each other, we had them prepare and practice beforehand a "Cartonera Book Talk."

The next time we had a celebration we displayed the cartoneras when we had parents come to school for the school book fair.  During the school day, classes would read and leave comments in the books.  

a group of adults and kids at an exhibit

All of the Downloads mentioned in the blog are available for free and here in this Google Folder. 

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