children

Book Fridays: El cumpleaños de Baldomero by Isabel M. Febles Iguina

This book caught my eye during our last library visit and I was pleasantly surprised when I got it home and read through it. I’ll be honest, I picked it up because it was published by the University of Puerto Rico. Currently, I am on a mission to find children’s books in Spanish. Diego’s library is pretty large but he’s got more books in English than in Spanish. This isn’t a huge issue, I often translate for him or simply talk about the book. Pictures can be discussed in any language after all. I try to balance story time so that it favors Spanish but includes English so I read to him in both languages almost every day. I just try to read an extra book in Spanish. Anyway, these aren’t hard and fast rules and quite honestly I have no idea what I am doing.

But back to the book, this book is a two in one. It is printed in both English and Spanish. I really like that it’s two books in one. Instead of printing the different texts side by side the book starts over in English after the Spanish language text. The story is about Baldomero’s birthday party. We start out with Baldomero and his parents coming up with the guest list. His parents allow him five guests but he has trouble with his fifth guest. When his parents probe him he explains that he really wants to invite his classmate Tito but he’s deaf and Baldomero doesn’t know sign language. His parents are very supportive and tell him that the fact that Tito is deaf is no obstacle to being his friend.

There are many things about this book that I loved. Firstly, I loved that these characters were not whitewashed. I find that even in texts that are written by and for a Latinx audience the illustrations favor fair skinned, green/blue eyed characters with straight hair. And while there are Latinx who do look like this failing to include people of color is erasure. Afro-latinx people exist! Puerto Rico in particular is inhabited by people of all ethnicities. There is diversity in our community even though media does not often represent that. And just in case there is a person of Latin or Hispanic descent that feels misrepresented when we talk about brown and black peoples because “we aren’t all dark!” please take a seat. I don’t have time for you, go away.

Anyway, the illustration of this book stood out to me in a good way. The inclusion of a child with a disability also adds to the diversity. Diversity is not just about representing people of different colors, races, etc. it is also about representing those who are not able-bodied. The message of the book is a positive one: people who are disabled/different in some way are still people. Tito was humanized throughout the story and he was not reduced to his hearing impediment.

You don’t have to be bilingual to enjoy this book and I encourage you to seek it out for your children!

Lastly, I always try my best to use correct language when discussing communities of which I am not part of. If I have expressed myself incorrectly or offensively please let me know.

Thank you for reading.

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Volunteer rejection

When I decided to call my local library and offer to read to young library patrons in Spanish I was expecting it to go over well. I knew they already had a story-time program in place so when I called I asked if they had any reading in Spanish. I was told that they did not and I explained that I wanted to speak to somebody about volunteering in their library in order to meet this need. The lady who I initially spoke to sounded enthusiastic about it and transferred me to the children’s librarian. The gentleman who answered the phone did not initially seem to be paying me much attention as he misunderstood my query and thought I was seeking a story-time program in Spanish for my son. I repeated myself and this time he understood but responded that Spanish story-time was not needed.

Not needed. I was taken aback. This was not the response I was expecting given that I live in South Florida. He did not offer to put me in touch with anybody, or even thank me for my call. He dismissed me. There are many things about that phone call that do not sit right with me. The first and most obvious one is the fact that a children’s librarian said to me that Spanish language resources are not needed. Nothing could be further from the truth and that he believes as such worries me. Especially considering that there are over 500 Hispanic students enrolled in the two elementary schools within my city.

Something else that bothered me is that a library’s response to a volunteer is to send them away. Libraries are wonderful resources. They are often underfunded and yet the role they have in the community is an important one. Communities are strengthened when members take part in them. I wanted to get involved but I was shot down. Now what? I should have asked more questions but I was stunned and didn’t feel like arguing. I was hoping for dialog, collaboration. Instead I got an immediate knee-jerk no.

I do not feel personally slighted. He doesn’t know me and I don’t know him, but I do feel disappointed. Reading is such an important component in a child’s education and it’s been shown to be beneficial to children of all ages. I know that my community is home to a lot of Spanish speakers who by virtue of their environment are raising bilingual children just like I am. Exposing children to a different language is a good thing, so even non-Spanish speakers could benefit and enjoy story-time in Spanish. In my opinion there was no reason to reject my offer. It would have cost the library nothing to try it out and if nobody came it would have been no skin off their nose.

I wrote the library a letter. I am hoping that by reaching out to express my disappointment that somebody will in turn reach out to me. I feel very strongly that reading programs are necessary and there’s no harm in adding on Spanish language to already existing ones.

Thank you for reading. I needed to vent a little about this as I can’t stop thinking about it and replaying the conversation in my mind. If I receive any kind of response or find somewhere to volunteer I will write a follow-up post.

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Book Fridays: It All Starts With Alligator

I am always on the look out for fun books that my son will enjoy. I get especially excited about self published books because I strongly believe in supporting artists directly. Last month my brother mentioned having a friend who had written and illustrated a book for children and he generously sent a copy my way. I had no expectations but I was thrilled when it arrived. This ABC’s book is so original and colorful!

The book was written and illustrated by Carlos A. Gonzalez Ramirez who hails from Mexico. According to his author page on Amazon.com he is a freelancing graphic designer. So far this is his only publication but I am hoping he will write and illustrate other books for children.

The book features a luchador from Mexico, a pink-clad unicorn superhero and best of all X is for Xavier Xoloitzcuintle. I’m still researching how to correctly pronounce that one. Five stars!

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No- the magic word

No: the magic word

Recently, I was talking to a friend who mentioned receiving a request on social media that she did not want to accept but felt she was being rude if she didn’t. I immediately told her that she’s entitled to her privacy and that self-care includes the word no and is never rude. Ever. I remember growing up being taught to always be polite, especially to adults. How often does this reverence for adults and politeness in general lands us in situations that we are not comfortable with? As a woman I know that men are often lechers, I experienced no shortage of this growing up. Children are especially vulnerable to the power dynamics that exist between younger  persons and older ones.

How can we protect our children? I think that we empower them when we teach them to use the word no. Teach them to say it often and loudly. Teach them that we don’t owe people our discomfort in order to avoid theirs. Children need to know that their parent’s stand behind them and that they won’t be reprimanded for standing up for themselves.

I mentioned earlier that I was taught to be polite, being rude was not tolerated by my parents, but saying no was. I remember when I was in the sixth grade waiting for my mom to pick me up from school and she was unusually late. Normally, she was waiting for us, we never waited for her. I knew we had plans to go to lunch at a friend’s house so it wasn’t completely weird for my friend’s dad to approach me and tell me that he had been instructed to pick my brother and I up from school. Even though I knew this man, knew I was meant to go to his house that afternoon I declined. I told him that if my mom had made alternate arrangements for my transportation after school she would always tell me beforehand. I refused to get into his car. Finally, we went to the school office where I called my mom and she apologized for worrying me, I was indeed supposed to ride with my friend and her dad. All of the adults were very impressed with me for sticking to my guns. Even though they were giving me credit, the real credit should go to my parents who had me feeling so sure of myself and them that I went head to head with an adult and won.

I often hear a lot of negative talk around using the word no with toddlers and kids. Redirect, use positive words, I’m sure we’ve all see this parenting philosophy. In many cases it makes sense to tell a child what you’d rather they do than yelling “No!”. I think that overusing the word no causes it to lose its effectiveness. Also, one of the reasons toddlers say no so much is because they hear it so often.

Bottom line: teaching our kids to say no and use it appropriately is important. It’s also important for them to get told no on occasion. Life doesn’t give you what you want all the time.

How do you feel about saying no?