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.


Update to my volunteer rejection post

Last week I wrote a post about being rejected by my local library when I called them to enquire about volunteering to read in Spanish. You can read that post here. On Friday I received a phone call from the Youth Services Department of my county’s library system. They saw my tweet and wanted to reach out to me. I would like to point out just how powerful social media can be. The lady I spoke with was very helpful and gave me contact information of people who would be able to direct me to where my services could be used.

Last night I sent off an email and this morning I spoke to somebody about my experience. It was explained to me that library volunteers go through an application process and are then placed based on the needs of the community. I am very grateful to have this information as it was what should have been given to me when I called the library. My issue with my initial interaction was two-fold: on one hand I took issue with being dismissed and on the other I was concerned that Spanish language programs were considered “not needed” by the children’s librarian. Of course, I did not expect the library to pick me off from the street and set me in front of a group of children without some sort of screening process and possible training. But I also did not expect to be sent off without any information or possibility of volunteering.

At this point I have no way of knowing if anything will come of this. All I know is that I am hoping for the inclusion/creation of Spanish language programing for children and I remain a willing volunteer. I am grateful that the Libraries Division took an interest in my experience and listened to what I had to say. That is an important step. The person I spoke with earlier today is supposed to get back to be after speaking to the librarian I spoke with in order to figure out what programs they are running in the library and what role, if any, I could play in that.

I will write another update when appropriate.

Book Fridays: Puerto Rican Literature

Las Más Bellas Poesias de Puerto Rico, an anthology compiled by Edwin Miner Solá and divided into eighteen topics was given to me as a gift by my mom and has resulted in the equivalent of a crash course in Puerto Rican literature which I now want to share with you. It includes works from the following literary movements: Pasnassianism, Modernism and Romanticism.  The book was printed in San Juan, Puerto Rico in February 2011. I don’t know why but this makes me really happy to have a book of poems by Puerto Rican authors compiled and printed on the island.

The book’s introduction provides some great information that felt new to me. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention in my Spanish Literature class or maybe it was just not presented as it is in this introduction. The cultural literary movement in Puerto Rico developed much later than it did in most of the colonies and Latin-American republics. This was partly due to the following: lack of university, isolation, illiteracy, literary censorship, and the restricted freedom of thought imposed by the regime.

Even though printing began in 1806 there was still no book commerce in 1840 and as a result obtaining books relied on young students that returned from universities in Spain. Despite all these obstacles the first publication, titled Aguinaldo Puertorriqueño was published in 1843. This first publication was a sort of anthology and inspired future publications. Aguinaldo  Puertorriqueño, by its title can lend one to assume it’s a collection of Christmas themed poems and the like but in reality it has nothing to do with Christmas. The publication itself was meant as a gift, hence the title, and is a collection of essays in prose and verse. The following year Album Puertorriqueño was published.

These publications gave way to the first important book of our literature:  El Gíbaro by Manuel A. Alonso. This was published in 1849 and is a collection of photographs documenting (and critiquing) the customs and traditions of Puerto Rico. At the time of publication the majority of people on the island were illiterate. The Antilles were not known for literature, they were simply places to exploit for riches, this book began a movement to build a literate citizenry as well as the preservation of Puerto Rican culture.

It’s funny how a collection of poems has awoken my interest in Puerto Rican literature. I have fallen down a rabbit-hole of literature and I’m enjoying the journey. I read through most of the poems in this book last night and there is so much in here to think about and digest. Some poems stuck out to me, like Nostalgia by Virgilio Dávila. I grew up listening to Andrés Jiménez sing the words of the first stanza without knowing their origin and inspiration. Now I know.

Gracias Mami por este regalo tan perfecto.



Literatura de Puerto Rico. In Wikipedia. Retrieved January 16, 2015

Lengua de Puerto Rico: historia y presente Retrieved January 16, 2015

Not much of a talker

Diego is only two months away from his second birthday and he is not talking very much. He says mama, papa, dada, and no. He uses the sign for “more” and has even expanded his use of it to include asking for anything he simply wants. He will point and sign to me. He gets his point across. He can also shake his head no, and wag his finger no. It’s quite amusing. What is less amusing is knowing that by this age he is supposed to have a vocabulary of about fifty words. It is not uncommon for toddlers to develop outside the established norms and while these can cause unnecessary worry for some of us they also provide early intervention for others.

I am committed to raising a fully bilingual child. I want Diego to speak Spanish fluently, as a native speaker. I want him to read and write it as well. When he goes to school all instruction will be in English so he is more than well covered in that respect although I worry that he will be underestimated and discriminated against simply because Spanish will be the first language he learned. I will, of course, deal with that issue if it ever comes up but for now I am mostly interested in encouraging him to develop his speech. Like I said before, we speak to him in Spanish but he is exposed to English as well. I have read that this duality can cause children to take longer to talk but that by age five they are caught up and speaking two languages.

There are days when I worry and question myself about his lack of speech. By all accounts my husband was a late talker and since Diego is a carbon copy of his father in every other way, perhaps he also takes after him with regards to this as well. During his next visit to his pediatrician I am sure this will be addressed should nothing change between now and then. I am open to any intervention deemed necessary as long as it will include Spanish as the language of instruction. Living in South Florida I do not anticipate this being a problem.

I think it’s important for parents to leave pride aside when developmental delays are suspected or present. We do not help our children by denying them or ignoring them. There is no shame in requiring a little help and if parents show children that there is shame in it they are doing them a great disservice. Something that always bugs me about development in toddlers is that some parents want to make it about intelligence. If your child is a late talker he is not stupid, or less intelligent than a child who has a larger vocabulary. Intelligence manifests in different ways and to project our own insecurities onto our children is wrong.

I have been doing a lot of research on speech development and have found some great resources. I have also started looking into Spanish language curricula for pre-school and beyond. Children spend about 8 hours a day at school, that’s only one third of their day! Education starts at home. Parents need to be involved and stay involved in order to give children the tools they need to succeed. I can already tell it’s going to be challenging (and fun!) but I am committed to Diego’s education. If I want him to learn Spanish I will need to be a very active participant and facilitator.

Finding materials to aid me in my journey is not easy but when I find something I feel like I’ve struck oil. My list of bookmarks continues to grow as does my list of materials I want to check out. I am still a disorganized mess but once I get myself sorted out I will share my findings here in case any one out there is as lost as I have been.