Monday, April 30, 2012

Happy Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros!

Happiest of days! Today is one of my favorite holidays! Are you celebrating Día de los niños, Día de los libros at your home or school? Would love to see pictures. (Hint, hint. You can share them on my FB page!)

Don't forget that in honor of the holiday, MommyMaestra has two great giveaways going on: a United States Activity Atlas, and THREE sets of the complete Hagamos Caminos Spanish Reading Curriculum. The giveaways end TONIGHT, at 11:59 p.m. Monday, April 30th, 2012.

And finally, because I love this holiday so, I have put all the bilingual/bicultural/Spanish children's books over at Latin Baby on sale, including the new Spanish versions of my favorite Who Was...? series. Get them while they are cheap!!

May you all enjoy your children and a few good books today.

Un abrazo...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Taking an Active Role in Your Child's Education

Once again, I want to take a moment to encourage you parents to get involved in your child's education....and applaude those of you who already are.

I have said over and over: If we don't fight for out kids, who will? 

But as parents, our fight is not of the physical kind (I hope!). Instead we must use tactics like communication, interest, research, and praise.

We have to communicate not just with our kids, but with their teachers, too. We must demand to know what our kids are learning and how well they're doing in class. If we don't, how can we help the teachers and our kids? We have to know what subjects or materials our kids are struggling with, so that we can figure out how to teach it to them in a way that they will understand.

Sometimes we have to investigate, too. Because sometimes what our children tell us doesn't necessarily match what the teacher has to say. So we have to remain objective and figure out who's right. Sometimes they both are, we know this, because life is not black and white. And those glorious shades of gray sometimes make it hard for people to understand each other - in this case, the teacher and your child.

We also have to show interest. Maybe this is hard because your daughter loves learning about and exploring something you don't. Or maybe you don't understand why your son gets excited about certain things. Even if you can't understand why on Earth, little Ana loves spiders and bugs, and Ricky likes to read about rocks, it's important to take the time to listen and express interest. If nothing else, we parents must be elated inside that our children love learning and are thinking about their world. Your little lego fan may grow up to be a great engineer. Your goldfish lover may discover a career in marine biology.

Which brings me to research. We have to get away from the idea that our children's education is the responsibility of the school system. It's not. It's OUR responsibility to make sure our kids are getting a good education. We can't all afford to send our kids to the best schools, or to teach them at home, but we CAN give them additional opportunities to explore and learn. We can think about the things they're interested in and we can research different ways to nurture that interest. We can take them to museums if they love history, zoos if they love animals. We can go to libraries, bookstores, art galleries, theaters, nature centers, festivals, insectariums, get the idea. We can find online programs, or books and magazines that feed their interests.

And lastly, we can offer words of encouragement and praise. We must learn the language of love over again. Our kids begin their lives trying to please us, but constant criticism, negativity, and lack of interest on our part only brings about resentment and rebellion. They should be rewarded for caring and having passion. For having dreams and doing what they can to follow them.

Con mucho cariño...

Disclosure: This post is part of a paid campaign by LATISM to raise awareness of the important role parents have in the education of their children in the Latino community. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The April Issue of Plaza Familia Now Available

The April issue of Plaza Familia is now available in select stores across the country. You can also view it and past issues online.

However, I wanted to share with you that if you are interested in subscribing to the magazine, individual subcriptions are available for a small fee. If you are a school or library and would like to order more than one copy to distribute to families, Plaza Familia will provide these to you free of charge. Please contact me and I will happily put you in contact with the right person at Plaza Familia.

This free, bilingual, family magazine focuses on sharing ideas and resources for raising healthy, happy children with a strong emphasis on education. It is a top-notch publication, beautifully presented and very well-written by a team of talented and knowledgeable writers. I hope you all have a chance to read each issue!

Un abrazo...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Will Latino Stories Sell?

It is with extreme pleasure that I publish this article by author, Laura Lacámara. Laura has chosen to share her thoughts on the current Latino children's literature market, and within her words I find an important message for all of us as we head into Día de los niños, Día de los libros. As parents, let's make some noise and show the publishing companies what we think about the market.

Will Latino Stories Sell?
by Laura Lacámara

Lately, big New York publishers have been saying NO to making children’s books with Latino-oriented stories or themes. The sales numbers aren’t big enough to justify the investment, they say. It costs a lot to produce picture books, after all. 

Well, in the not-so-distant past, before the phrase: “It’s the economy,” was rolling off our tongues a hundred times a day, there was a much more Latino-friendly atmosphere at these large publishing houses.

What a happy time! The mangos were ripe and salsa music was in the air! This Cuban chica was in demand! My new agent was circulating my first picture book manuscript, Floating on Mama’s Song/Flotando en la canción de mamá. And publishers weren’t dancing around the issue, they were obviously hungry for Latino stories!

I know this because all eight of the “non-acceptance” letters my agent got from the editors of these big publishers (before my manuscript was acquired) ended more or less the same way:  “Please keep me in mind for future Latino-themed submissions. We are actively seeking to expand our multicultural line.” It was clear that something big was happening. Not just for me, but also for my fellow Latino authors and illustrators.

An agent I met at the time told me even better news. She said: Now that we have opened a lot of doors for Latino authors to share their unique stories with the world, we are ready to take it to the next level. We are ready to hear stories of all kinds from authors of color.  In addition to culturally-inspired themes such as the Latino immigrant experience, the doors are now swinging open to include other themes from authors who happen to be Latino and have a story to tell.

That appealed to me. I knew my Latina-ness would still come through, no matter what I wrote. And what I wanted most was the freedom to let my imagination soar and make stuff up that appealed to the child inside of me. It looked like I would get to have my flan and eat it, too!

So how did we lose so much ground? Back then I really believed there were no limits. That the road to cultural diversity in children’s literature was opening up in front of me. But now, years later, I’m literally being told by my editor not to write Latino stories at all (no Latino themes, main characters, etc.) because they are such a hard sell.

I wanted to be free to let my spirit soar, but I never wanted to exclude my cultural identity! Is my only choice now to cut off part of myself in order to appeal to the mainstream?

Not that there isn’t something seductive about finally, after a lifetime of feeling like an outsider, being invited to join the mainstream!

Growing up Latina in white suburbia I felt ashamed of being different and longed to be like everyone else.

And don’t get me started on the never feeling normal because I’m an artist thing...

It’s taken me years, heck a lifetime, to accept that I will always feel like an outsider to some degree. So naturally, it’s with a certain level of ambivalence that I consider joining into the mainstream...

But, wait a minute here!  What is this so-called mainstream we're talking about?  Are publishers afraid that white Americans are under-represented in children's publishing today?

Well, let's see.  In 2010, according to US Census data, 63% of the US population was Caucasian. Yet, according to the University of Wisconsin, nearly 95% of children’s books published that year were by white authors and illustrators. Also in 2010, Latinos comprised about 16% of the U.S. population. However, less than 2% of the books published that year were by and/or about Latinos! Talk about under-representation!

The fact is that nearly 40% of U.S. children come from diverse backgrounds. How can we deny a considerable slice of our population the validating experience of seeing themselves in the pages of their books?

True, when I was growing up, I don’t remember ever seeing a reflection of myself or my culture in the books I read. But folks, that was like a thousand years ago! In the late 60’s and early 70’s, I was a minority in my San Fernando Valley classroom. But today, in the L.A. Unified classroom of 2012, my blonde, blue-eyed daughter is the oddball. Today’s Los Angeles Unified School District is almost 75% Latino.

So what are publishers afraid of? That there is no audience for Latino books? Whenever schools in the Los Angeles area and beyond hear that I have bilingual books to share, they go crazy trying to book me for a presentation! They know what their kids are missing.

And I can see it in the kid’s faces when I get there. Like the girl who was beaming when she announced, "Anita in your book looks like me!"

And kids love it when I share my background and tell them about becoming an author and illustrator. One second grader named Araceli tapped me on the arm as I was packing up to leave. "When I grow up, I'm going to be an artist, like you," she whispered. Maybe she sees it as an option for the first time.

So, I'm left wondering if the enthusiasm for Latino stories was just a passing fad? Or, when the economy turns around, will Latino and multicultural imprints spring up at the big publishers like never before and take their rightful place representing a proportional amount of American culture?

Is there something we as authors, illustrators and/or parents should do to help our voices be heard in the publishing world?

I don’t have any magic answers.  But I do want to create magical stories and pictures. And, while I know the deepest part of me supersedes culture and identity, I still seek the freedom to express myself in the fullest way possible which naturally includes my Cuban-American background.

Meanwhile, I'll go make a flan, and I hope someday soon we can all have a slice! 


Laura Lacámara is the award-winning author of Floating on Mama’s Song / Flotando en la canción de mamá, which was chosen as a Junior Library Guild Selection for Fall 2010 and is a Tejas Star Book Award Finalist for 2011 - 2012.

To learn more about Laura Lacámara, visit her website:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tintin and the Reluctant Reader

The following article is written by our regular contributor, Marta Darby, a homeschooling mami of 10 years for our "In Your Words" Literacy Series as we celebrate Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros this month on MommyMaestra.

My son, Jonathan, was a reluctant reader. He had some struggles with spatial relationships when he was very young, and is still very much a kinesthetic learner. We addressed his difficulty with the crossover of brain information by getting a trampoline. (Read about that here.)

He loved being read to, but he didn’t like to pick up books on his own and just read for pleasure. My older son, Adam had had that same problem. I wondered if it was a gender thing? Or maybe it was just my own boys?

When Adam was young, I was introduced to a series of comic-type books by the Belgian author, Hergé. They were written in the 1930’s and the hero was called Tintin, a young Belgian reporter who is aided in his adventures by his faithful dog, Snowy.

I was advised by none other than Jim Trelease, the author of the Read Aloud Handbook, to get some of the Tintin books and put them in a basket in the *ahem* bathroom. Really? That’s the sage reading advice from the reading expert?

This was back in the stone age. Before the internet and cement. When research was actually done in libraries. I decided I had nothing to lose.

So I headed out to the bookstore to special order some Tintin books. Did I mention they were from the 1930’s? I filled a basket full of these and set it in the *ahem* smallest room in the house.

What happened next, was glorious. I would start finding the Tintin books in other places. By Adam’s bed. On the coffee table. Next to the couch. Someone was picking up the books and moving them around the house. Which meant someone was reading them.

Then someone started asking for more. And sharing what he had read. And asking for more. The stories were well-researched, engaging and had a variety of plot lines in various genres. Swashbuckling adventures, science fiction, mysteries, fantasy, political thrillers. The illustrations were clean and easy to follow. Tintin had it all.

Ten years later, when Jonathan was “reluctant” to read, I remembered how The Adventures of Tintin had helped his big brother and again, I brought out the *ahem* bathroom basket and the Tintin books.

And the magic happened again. This time, Jonathan wanted all of us to read them so we could discuss them at the dinner table. That’s when we all started getting attached to Tintin.

Eventually, Jonathan went on to read other, different kinds of literature. He was not as reluctant to pick up other kinds of books and was able to follow other plot lines.

But I still credit Hergé and the Adventures of Tintin for introducing both of my boys to real honest-to-goodness storytelling. And giving them a love and passion for reading and learning.


Marta Darby is an avid blogger, business owner, Cuban cook, graphic designer, scrapbooker, photographer and homemaker. She was born in Havana and left Cuba with her family when she was 5 years old. She likes to tell anecdotes and stories about her family (all 40 of them!), her passions (dulce de leche and red lipstick), and especially being Cuban. She is happily married to her fabulous gringo husband, Eric, and lives with him and their four children in a tiny house with a white picket fence.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hagamos Caminos Review

Spanish reading curriculum

The following is a product review by homeschooling mami, Carla Molina, for our "In Your Words" Literacy Series as we celebrate Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros this month on MommyMaestra.

The only fear I have about homeschooling my daughters is that I won't be able to teach them to read in Spanish. I was never taught to read in Spanish. Actually, I wasn't taught any school subjects in Spanish, but the concepts of math and geography and science and all the other subjects translate easily when you're doing hands-on learning. Reading, however, leaves me completely dumbfounded. I searched far and wide for a curriculum to get my girls (and me) off on the right foot. It was a relief to discover Alma Flor Ada's Hagamos Caminos, a creative reading literacy program.

When it comes to reading, I want my daughter to learn to read independently but also, if not more importantly, love to read. Hagamos Caminos is a literature based program which focuses on nurturing a true affection for reading. The books contain a variety of genres including legends, oral folklore, poetry, riddles and rhymes, even plays from all over the Hispanic world. There are stories based on reality, which my daughter easily identifies with, and tales based on fantasy which engage her imagination. Everyone in our house has fallen in love with the literature in this series. We not only work on the educational exercises, but you'll often find one of the books next to our bed for a quick story before getting tucked in for the night.

Curriculum_for_reading_in_SpanishI adore the illustrations. They are fun and whimsical and really make the content pop. When we go through the texts just looking at the pictures, deducing what we think is taking place, I appreciate how someone thought to make it beautiful. The same way I love to hold a gorgeous book in my hands, so do my daughters. If my daughter doesn't like the artwork, then a book has a slim chance of making it past page one. So, five points on a five-point scale for visual appeal!

The program comes with eight books, four of which are reading texts and four accompanying workbooks. There are 4 stages to the series: Partimos (pre-K - 1st), Andamos (K - 2nd), Corremos (1st - 3rd) and Volamos (2nd - 5th). Despite the wide span of grade level content, we were able to work with each of the books. We started with Partimos and I was surprised, having had zero experience with a formal reading program, how engaged and excited my daughter was. She enjoyed the variety of activities and I appreciated how much was covered. Not only did she make connections to the stories but she also got to practice math concepts, fine motor skills, pattern identification, and early writing skills. 
Spanish_literacy_workbooksAll of the books are equally rich in educational content covering a range of skills. We're almost done with Partimos and are making our way through Andamos. With these two books, my daughter has felt easily empowered to work independently and ask for assistance when needed, which is sparingly. It was beautiful to watch her feel so proud of herself as she went through the exercises. The last two books of the series are geared towards older children (1st - 5th grade) so we work on them together. I've thought about putting these away for later but she loves them so much I can't really get them away from her.

The only negative I found with the program is the included DVD. It's a bit dated and not the very best quality. You do, however, get a clear sense of Ada's passion for educating children and her enthusiasm for the program. She shares the principles behind the program which gave me a better perspective on her approach. There are also a few songs which my daughter enjoyed. The video is helpful in getting background on the program but, honestly, I would have felt fine just diving right into the materials.

If you can't tell, I'm really impressed with this program. My daughter is confidently putting the pieces together to learn to read and is genuinely excited for "school" time as we've come to call it. She even applies the methodology for analyzing and thinking about a story to books we read for fun. Hagamos Caminos has made me feel confident in teaching my children to read.

My family has long been a fan of Alma Flor Ada's work and this just solidifies a place in our hearts for her. She is really committed to educating children with respect and love. I highly recommend the Hagamos Caminos program. This set is available for purchase through Del Sol Books. I've already got other books from Del Sol Books, the publishers of Hagamos Caminos, on my daughter's wish list!


Carla Molina is a weaver of words and creative collaborator. A Jersey girl at heart with lots of love for Boston, she spends most of her time raising two bilingual little ladies and brainstorming more ways to write her heart out. She blogs about being a woman and a creative creature at All of Me Now. And plays cheerleader to the local businesses serving families in her current home state at Petit Rhody.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

12 Ways to Promote Early Literacy in the Bilingual Home

© kmiragaya -

The following is a guest post by teacher and mami, Fabiola Woerner, for our "In Your Words" Literacy Series as we celebrate Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros this month on MommyMaestra.

“I want chocolate cereal,” said my three year old the other morning. “You want Cocoa Krispies?”  I replied, pointing to the name on the box. “Yeah,” she said.

You see, by pointing to the box, my daughter is learning that the chocolate cereal has a name, that we refer to it by its name, and that the name appears on print. 

Early literacy begins in the first 0-3 years of life. It is during this time that a child begins to interact with other readers, observe and practice writing by scribbling, and begin to develop their literate skills.    

Young children are great imitators and they will observe and want to do what they see us doing.

What can you do at home to promote literacy?

Literacy is promoted when we incorporate opportunities for reading, writing, and vocabulary building.

1.   Write to-do lists together – Each time my daughter sees me writing, she says “I ‘escribir’ too!” We sit together at the table, each with paper, a pen or pencil while I tell her what I am writing. I also read her the items that I’ve written down.  Sometimes I also ask her what she thinks we could include. You could also write grocery lists together.

2. Write letters / cards – My daughter learned this year that we write cards for family members on their birthday. She has learned that we write a special note in a card, that it goes in the envelope, and that we hand it to the person we wrote the card to.  She has now begun writing little notes (scribbles) on paper for everyone in the family. She ‘reads’ each one of them to us.

3.  Use labels – label toys with a picture of the object. Make labels relevant and practical for them as they will also use them for sorting and classifying items. You can also label kitchen jars, cabinets, etc.

4.  Post a daily schedule / daily routine – The left column can be a picture and the right column can be the words represented in the picture. Children are very visual and they will gain much from seeing that a picture is accompanied by a word.

You can also incorporate a specific reading time in your day. It could be right before nap time or at night before bed. You could use this time as a way to wind down children after a long day.

5.  Family Name Cards – Using Word or any other software, type the name of the person or relationship next to the picture. You can include the parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts & uncles, teachers, friends, pets, etc.  It’s also helpful to help teach the child about family members who may live far away and don’t see very often but this way they are also learning about them.

6.  Library trips - Make or buy a special bag that is exclusively used for going to the library. Take your child to the children’s books section and allow them to choose a book or two that they can take home to read. You could also keep a special notebook in the bag where they could sketch a picture about the book they read with you.

7.  Create a reading area – Designate a corner somewhere in the home where you keep all the books and a comfy chair to read. Include books that are in English and Spanish or Bilingual texts. I also include books that have my children’s favorite character from TV.  I usually sit with them to read.  Use this time to read the title of the book, point to the page you are reading, ask questions about the pictures such as “What is she doing?” “Why do you think she is doing that?” “Is he/she happy / sad?” etc.

8.  Variety of print – Keep a variety of texts around in a basket. We keep magazines, catalogs, and books. Doing this, shows children that print is everywhere and it always carries meaning.

9.  Use recipes – Print and read recipes together as you cook or bake. Talk about the recipe aloud and say things like “here it says we need 1 cup of flour.” Use this time for teaching the names of the ingredients in both languages.

10.  Name banner – Practice name and letter recognition. I keep a banner in the bedroom, where my daughter points to the letters and tells me what they are. I also keep a seasonal banner in the living room with a word that represents the season such as “Love” or “Easter.” We go over those letters too and discuss what the season is about.

We’re currently learning the alphabet in English and Spanish, so there are times when my daughter mixes languages while telling the letters.

11.  Drawing and writing We paint 2-3 times a week in the morning. My daughter chooses the colors she wants to use and then paints a picture. While she paints, we talk about what she is painting. It usually involves a story, an object, or something she wants to do. I try to remember what she says so that we can write down the things she said about the picture.  If you need more room, then keep a second sheet of paper where you can write the things he/she said.  It’ll be a very sweet keepsake to look at someday.

12.   Storytelling – Have a family member share a story, it could be a family tradition or any activity they did earlier in the day. Then prompt your child to retell the story to another person.  This activity helps your child recall major information and details, build vocabulary, and teach about sequencing.

In sum, the home is a very rich environment full of opportunities to enhance literacy from a young age.  Children are eager to learn, discover, and explore. It is up to us to guide them in the right direction.  Use some or all of the activities listed above to engage your child in the literate world.

What do you do at home to promote literacy?

For further reading, check the following articles:

·   Early Literacy  - great article with ideas to teach literacy from a very young age.

·  10 Reasons why you should read to your children –


Fabiola is currently a stay-at-home mom to two children, soon to be three. She has a 3-year-old daughter and a 16-month-old son.  She has experience teaching children ages 3-9 years old, as well as adults. Her main interests include teaching reading, raising bilingual children, and crafting in her spare time.

Monday, April 23, 2012

United States Activity Atlas {Giveaway}

I'm a firm believer in interactive books. If they require additional action on the part of the reader - be it answering questions, searching for clues, or writing down notes - then the learning experience is amplified. And I think it is just much more fun for the kids and, therefore, a great way to develop your child's literacy skills and love for reading.

So I'm happy to kick off this week of Día celebratory giveaways by sharing with one lucky MommyMaestra reader this United States Activity Atlas by Priddy Books.

As the cover states, this book is 40 wipe-clean pages of United States activities. With the book comes three dry erase markers and a small cloth wipe. Inside the pages of the book you will find snippets of information about each state (sometimes the pages double up on states, that's why there's only 40 pages!). You may find fill in the blanks, counting exercises, crossword puzzles, and many other different challenges for your 1st through 4th grader.

This book does not share extensive information about each state, but I have found it to be an excellent introduction to the states for young children. In addition to the various activities, each state requires letter tracing to help young children perfect their writing skills. And the best part? When you're finished, just wipe it all off and start over! English only.


One MommyMaestra reader will receive a copy of the United States Activity Atlas.

To enter to win, simply leave a comment below.

The deadline to enter is 11:59 EST, Monday, April 30th (Happy Día!). The winners will be chosen using and contacted via email - so be sure to leave a valid email address in your comment!

And to increase your chances of winning, you can:

1) Follow the MommyMaestra FB page.

2) Follow me on Twitter and tweet the following: Win a copy of the United States Activity Atlas from @LatinMami in honor of #Día #giveaway

Don't forget to let me know by posting a separate comment for each entry!

By entering this giveaway, you agree to the Official Sweepstakes Rules. No purchase required. Void where prohibited.

¡Buena suerte!

Disclosure: I purchased my own copy of this great little activity book and am offering it to a reader because I love it so.

Blending Technology and Literacy at Home {Guest Post}

© Monkey Business -
The following is a guest post by teacher and dad, Miguel A. Corona, for our "In Your Words" Literacy Series as we celebrate Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros this month on MommyMaestra.

I believe a child’s education is shaped by the entirety of his or her experience. While children learn and grow through every day events, I think it’s their home environment, parents, and early education that ultimately promote their development. In today’s information age, we have the opportunity to promote literacy using extraordinary technological tools. Ten years of experience as an online college educator has helped me blend reading and technology to promote literacy with two very important students: my children.

I think the Internet has changed the way parents and educators understand literacy in today’s world. By using the Internet, school projects have become an opportunity for our children to develop their independence by allowing them to research based on their personal interests. As a parent, it’s wonderful to witness my children’s enthusiasm and accomplishment in their reading and writing work. I’m confident it’s also developed their confidence because they’ve used the Internet to produce ideas that are expressive and creative.

As parent and educator, I realize that literacy in the 21st century will require more technical literacy. To help foster this skill, my children spend time communicating virtually with their classroom peers, download e-books, listen to online audio books, and locate virtual tutorials. My responsibility as a parent is to support and guide them as they evaluate content, analyze material, synthesize information, and create reports. I think technical literacy means not only knowing how to access reliable information but also knowing how to apply it to school.

My son recently completed a report on the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking. Since the Internet is overflowing with information on this topic, it placed special demands on my son’s ability as a reader. Although my son was able to apply the same print reading strategies to his Internet reading, it was still challenging. One challenge was overcoming all the fantastic graphics and catchy content that could’ve diverted from his reading. As his online research progressed, so did his ability to evaluate the content and usefulness of each website. By the end of the project, he understood new concepts, improved his vocabulary, and organized his ideas.

I use technology to promote literacy with my children because their future success will depend increasingly on their ability to leverage the tools of society’s future academic and work environments. And while technology and literacy have made inroads in the classroom, it’s imperative that we as parents do the same at home.


Dr. Miguel Corona is the Founder of AdMentis Latino Talent Solutions, a Hispanic talent consultancy that specializes in helping organizations develop strategies to increase their recruitment and retention of Latinos. Miguel also publishes the blog,, a communications platform to discuss Latino experiences in education and the workplace.

Dr. Corona is a first-generation American. His experience also includes over ten years as a faculty member for several online universities teaching graduate and undergraduate business courses.

His on-going research interests include the role of culture on Latino professionals in the workplace, the developmental and leadership experiences of Latino professionals, and the organizational experiences of recent Latino college graduates.

He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Celebrate Día with Peep

It's no secret that Día is one of my favorite holidays. I love the idea of celebrating kids, books, and diversity. In years past, I've celebrated Día on the Latin Baby Book Club with guest posts and giveaways and special resources. This year, I've moved that celebration here to MommyMaestra. I'm excited about the giveaways and guest articles on literacy I have scheduled between now and the 30th. In fact, I have so much to share this week that I am going to have to double up on posts, so starting tomorrow (Monday) each day there will be at least two posts shared here, one of which will be a giveaway, so please bookmark MommyMaestra and visit us daily.

So you may be wondering why I have chosen the above picture for this piece. Well, the reason is that the characters from Peep and the Big Wide World have been selected as the official mascot of the National Latino Children's Institue's Día celebrations around the country. (Over 100 cities around the country are registered as official El Dia de los Niños sites, holding celebrations such as parades, book festivals, hands-on activities and other entertainment. Find one near you here.) This Emmy Award-winning, preschool science series is a production of WGBH out of Boston. While most of you may be familiar with the show on PBS, it is also aired in Spanish on Vme. Peep introduces children to basic science and math concepts in a format that they can understand. And I really love their bilingual website which offers activities, games, videos and other resources in both English and Spanish. Parents of children ages 3 to 6, you especially will want to visit their website to download their free Explorer's Guide, handouts, and other printables.

I'm terribly excited to start off this week by inviting you to join me this Tuesday, April 24th, at 1pm EST/10am PST for a Twitter party celebrating Día de los niños, Día de los libros. All you have to do is follow the hashtag #PEEPDia.

I´ll be co-hosting this Twitter party along with six other fabulous Día advocates. And at the end of the party we´ll be giving away three sets of prize packs, each with a $50 Amazon gift card and a PEEP series DVD with the Spanish-language option included! (Did you get that? Amazon gift cards!! *Drooling*) To RSVP for the Twitter party, get a reminder before it starts, and check out the co-hosts to follow, go to this link here.

I so hope to talk to you then!

Con mucho cariño...

Friday, April 20, 2012

¡Feliz Día de la Tierra!

Happy Earth Day from MommyMaestra!

Just as a reminder, I already have a page dedicated to bilingual activities, books, and more dedicated to this holiday. Just take a look here.

Also, be sure to check out the Latin Baby Book Club's recommended list of bilingual and bicultural books for celebrating Earth Day with children.

Con much cariño...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Imagine a Better World, Imagina un mundo mejor

There's little else that makes me happier than finding a fabulous new resource for my children...and yours. I must profusely thank a MommyMaestra reader for contacting me and sharing this particular one with me.

Brickhouse Education is a (new?) publishing company whose goal is to "provide you with high-quality books while covering all benchmarks/standards and helping you save." Their books are designed to teach several subjects at once, to help teachers cover more with less. And if you visit their website, you'll see that they are working towards providing a free downloadable lesson plan with each book. And all teachers and librarians receive 30% off list prices.But the best part? EVERY TITLE IS AVAILABLE IN SPANISH.

Okay, so you might say this is slightly exciting but... how good are the translations?

I'll admit that I haven't read all their books. But from what I can tell many of the books are written by Yanitzia Canetti, of whom I just think the world. She is a superb author and translator who, like all true translators, is remarkably good at conveying the meaning and emotion behind the story. She's not a chop-chop-choppy, word-for-word translator.

(UPDATE: I just discovered that Canetti is actually the President of Cambridge BrickHouse. That only impresses me even more.)

My introduction to the Brickhouse Education titles, was through Imagina un mundo mejor. This beautiful book is perfect for Earth Day and National Poetry month and Día de los niños, Día de los libros all together.

This book is filled with inspirational poetry and whimsical illustrations that open our eyes to the beauty of our surrounding world...

The book was written to teach Reading, Math, Science, and Social Studies. It touches on key concepts like rhyming words, animal habitats and behaviors, responsibility and generosity, life cycles, and descriptive language and imagery. It is also designed to build self-esteem, help children identify problems and solutions, and express emotions.

I can't tell you how much I love the poems in this book. I can't even pick out only one to share with you, they are that good. So here is just one, that I love...

 El árbol del abuelo

Abuelo sembró un árbol
que tiene ramas frondosas.
En él viven gusanitos
y hormiguitas laboriosas.
Vive un búho, tres gorriones,
y un montón de mariposas,
las abejas de un panal
y cuatro ardillas graciosas.

En invierno hiberna un oso.
En primavera, ¡qué flores!
En verano, nos da frutos,
Y en otoño, ¡qué colores!

Cuánta, cuánta, cuánta vida
tiene el árbol del abuelo.
¡Cuánta cuánta maravilla
nace de la tierra al cielo!

Some of the poems are longer than others. But they are all beautifully written and would be perfect for memorization.

And for those of you who prefer your books in English - the English version of this title, Imagine a Better World, is equally delightful! But you don't have to take my word for it. Just visit their website where you can preview each of the books they offer.

I cannot say enough about this company. Just looking through their catalog, I am drooling at all the excellent series and individual titles that cover such a great number of subjects!

Homeschooling mamis! THIS is a gold mine for you!

Parents, this is a must-have book for your family home library.

Bilingual education teachers: You cannot go wrong, I think, with this company.

So what are you waiting for? Go and check out their website at

Con mucho cariño...

Disclosure: I contacted Brickhouse Education to ask for a copy of this book, which they kindly agreed to send me for review. All the blubbering and glowing opinions found above are purely my own.

Literature Connections {ACTIVITIES}

The following is a guest post by Eileen Carter-Campos.

As a first grade and preschool teacher for many years, I always felt the need to incorporate a literature connection in all of my lessons. I found it to be beneficial to "all" of the learners. It engaged the visual learner who had to see what I was teaching them, the tactile learner who felt the need to manipulate objects, the auditory learner so that they could hear the selection and the model of fluency, and I would even try to incorporate a song or movement for that kinesthetic learner. It worked like a charm. The children were better able to comprehend the story, were actively engaged, and they walked away with a piece that they had created themselves and took pride in.

I have often used the works of Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault for the younger children. In the book, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, the author identifies the letters of the alphabet and he also plays with words to incorporate rhyming. Here’s what I would do with this story: I would precut trunks of palm trees, their leaves, and coconuts (simple precut circular shapes). I would also make precut letters available. Sometimes I would have them practice the formation of letters, or even look for letters in cut-up magazines. The task was for the children to be able to create their names properly or create a word that they knew. This enabled me to see if the children had an understanding of the spelling of their name or if they were able to combine certain letters to create blends and make a word.

The finished product was a masterpiece and the children loved it. The children took pride in their work and they were eager to display and celebrate what they had created from a book.

The book, Chicka Chicka 123, is great for mathematics and enabled me to see if the children were able to identify the numbers in order, as well as identify a missing number. With the older grades I often had them create a number model, and then they had to find the total for that number model. This helped me to see which children were struggling with number sense.

Another great literature connection for this time of year is Rechenka’s Egg by Patricia Polacco. The children listen to a tale told of a grandmother in Moscow. The story unfolds when Babushka saves a goose that is hurt by hunters. Babushka takes the goose in, nourishing it while still preparing for the the Easter festival. One day, accidentally, the goose breaks all of the eggs that Babushka has created. But in return, it gives Babushka a beautifully painted egg each day for the next 12 days. I always love to focus on the lesson of generosity and helping others in need within the selection.

I also love for the children to move onto creating that very special egg for themselves.
So the children are given an oval-shaped piece of construction paper, or I give them the choice of creating their own shaped oval. The children then get to create designs on their egg. After they are finished outlining designs I have them decorate it. The children may follow the design with some pipe cleaners, feathers, glitter, or decals. The children may also be given the option of bringing out their creativity and painting their own egg. With the older grades I like to incorporate a writing piece. They are able to write about a time that they were generous to someone and how it made them feel to be this way. You also can do the reverse and have them discuss a time when they were not so nice, and what they can do to change that action.

There are many ways that we can incorporate literacy into our daily activities so that the children comprehend the story better and you are able to touch on all learning styles, while really allowing the children to socialize with their peers. I believe the children will have a better understanding of the text, and they will also continue to gain an enjoyment of literature.

This will increase that love for reading.


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