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  • What would you identify as the special element or trait that enabled a young girl to have such resolute determination? Mainly it was will power, tremendous will power. Zhongmei came from a poor place where it was expected that people would have to "eat bitterness," as the Chinese put it, in order to survive, so she never expected things to be easy.
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    5 Questions With... Richard Bernstein (A GIRL NAMED FAITHFUL PLUM)

    by Richard Bernstein
     | Sep 27, 2013

    Growing up in East Haddam, Connecticut, Richard Bernstein always dreamed of seeing the world, and after he finished college he figured a great way to do that would be to become a newspaper reporter. So he became a foreign correspondent for TIME MAGAZINE and then the NEW YORK TIMES, which sent him—all expenses paid!—to lots of countries, including Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, France, Germany, Poland, South Africa, Mozambique, and about 20 others. A GIRL NAMED FAITHFUL PLUM is his first book for young readers, but he's sure it won't be his last. Richard lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Zhongmei (who is Faithful Plum!), his son, Elias, and their cat, Lucky.

    A GIRL NAMED FAITHFUL PLUM details the challenging path a young girl from an impoverished, rural village in China takes to become an internationally renowned dancer. What would you identify as the special element or trait that enabled a young girl to have such resolute determination?

    Mainly it was will power, tremendous will power.  Zhongmei came from a poor place where it was expected that people would have to "eat bitterness," as the Chinese put it, in order to survive, so she never expected things to be easy. Her natural tenacity, her deep desire to succeed, enabled her to overcome obstacles that would have defeated somebody without her special brand of determination.  But there was something else as well. When Zhongmei got into the Beijing Dance Academy there was tremendous excitement about it in her home town. She became a kind of celebrity, and she felt it would have been just too humiliating for her to go back a failure and to disappoint the people who had put their faith in her. This intensified her desire to succeed, her determination to do whatever she possibly could to overcome the obstacles that were put in her path.

    We often focus on teachers as the facilitators of big dreams, but Zhongmei is faced with a cruel and discouraging ballet instructor. What can young people learn from her ability to overcome this obstacle in the form of an adult authority figure?

    That's a very tough question because, of course, it's extremely difficult for a young person to defy adult authority. But the lesson to be drawn from Zhongmei's experience is to never allow somebody else to determine the way you view yourself. Listen to your inner voice, and listen also to the people who believe in you. Fortunately for Zhongmei, she was able to find another teacher who saw her talent and her determination, and with the essential love and encouragement she got from that good teacher, she was able to prevent the bad one from defining her. 

    In the final chapter of A GIRL NAMED FAITHFUL PLUM, you re-emphasize the struggle and adversity Zhongmei experienced. Why did you decide to revisit the struggle at the end?

    Because I was telling a true story, and in the end, when she graduated, Zhongmei herself revisited her tribulations of the past. She really did make that speech, and I thought that her plea to the school to give everybody a fair chance no matter where they come from was not only a good message but a universal one as well. 

    As a foreign correspondent, you’re experienced in writing about places and events far from your home. But Zhongmei is your wife, so this book focuses on a person very close to you. What were the challenges of writing about someone so familiar?

    Let me talk about the advantages first, rather than the challenges. The book became a constant conversation between Zhongmei and me. I was always asking her questions and her answers enabled me to deepen my understanding of this person that I am married to. The challenge was that it was sometimes very painful for Zhongmei to have to relive a time in her life when she was very unhappy and when terrible things were done to her. My job was to write something good enough to justify dragging her through all that bad stuff from her childhood.

    Aside from authoring this biography, you’ve also had a fascinating career as a foreign correspondent, book critic, and culture reporter for TIME and the NEW YORK TIMES. What has been your path and when did you first dream of being a reporter?

    I was always fascinated by foreign places, strange places, different places. Perhaps it was from growing up in a small town where nothing much exciting ever happened. When I was in college, one of my professors suggested that I learn about Asia because so little really was known about it. And once I started learning about Asia, of course I wanted to go there, and what better way to go than to work for a newspaper? You can learn about things and turn what you learn into articles—and get paid for it to boot!  So after college, I did some traveling, mostly in India at that time. I wrote some freelance articles and sent them to newspapers and magazines, and when some of them were published I was able to build up a portfolio, and that led to my being hired as a foreign correspondent by TIME MAGAZINE, my first big step into the world of journalism.  

    © 2013 International Reading Association. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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  • Dana Sullivan was the Creative Director at Costco Wholesale for 16 years until he realized he wasn’t being all that creative, so he quit to become a full-time writer and illustrator of children’s books. He teaches illustration classes, is a volunteer cartoonist at 826 Seattle and is the Assistant Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators of Western Washington.
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    5 Questions With… Dana Sullivan (OZZIE AND THE ART CONTEST)

    by Dana Sullivan
     | Sep 20, 2013

    Dana Sullivan was the Creative Director at Costco Wholesale for 16 years until he realized he wasn’t being all that creative, so he quit to become a full-time writer and illustrator of children’s books. He teaches illustration classes, is a volunteer cartoonist at 826 Seattle and is the Assistant Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators of Western Washington. Dana is married to the lovely Vicki and still misses the real Ozzie, an incredibly stubborn and wonderful Australian Blue Heeler named Max, who continues to inspire.

    Your new picture book, OZZIE AND THE ART CONTEST, had some real-life inspiration. Can you tell us about that?

    A few years ago I submitted an entry to create a coloring book for kids on how to prepare for a disaster—earthquake, flooding, that sort of thing. I worked really hard on it and spent a few days coming up with characters and songs and a storyboard. I had a lot of fun and remember thinking, “Man, I was BORN to do this project! I’m going to get it for sure.” 

    When I didn’t get it, I was super disappointed and also surprised at how much anger I felt. I mean, I was SUPPOSED to win, right? Lots of authors turn their own experiences into stories, so that’s what I did. It was a good way to turn my anger and disappointment into something fun. I just used a little blue dog named Ozzie instead of myself.

    In OZZIE AND THE ART CONTEST, Ozzie is so driven to win that he doesn’t follow the instructions properly and ends up losing first place, which crushes him. What message do you hope young readers will take away from this?

    We all make mistakes. That’s one of the ways we learn. Kids are learning all the time, so they make a lot of mistakes. Hmm, I guess I’m learning all the time, too. Sometimes, like Ozzie, it’s because I’m not paying attention to all the details. But Ozzie’s picture is still a good one (I happen to think it’s the best one in class) and he had an excellent time making it. Ozzie does all kinds of creative things he doesn’t win first prize for, but he doesn’t do it for an award. He does it because he gets a kick out of it.

    One of my favorite things about Ozzie is that once he realizes his mistake, he laughs at himself. I’m still working on that part.

    Ozzie’s teacher, Miss Cattywhompus, eventually helps Ozzie understand why he lost, as well as appreciate what he gained. She’s instrumental in repairing Ozzie’s self-confidence. How did the teachers in your life who do the same for you?

    I’ve had some great teachers who passed on a sense of wonder and joy about what they were teaching. My 9th Grade English teacher really encouraged my artistic side and put me in charge of the art in our yearbook. I drew cartoons of cave-boys and girls on just about every page and still have that yearbook. Later on in art school, one of my favorite teachers of all time, Mr. Lee, taught me to make sure I was having fun while I worked hard. He’d sing to us, kid with us, tell us long stories with no point, but his attitude about getting the most out of life and the careers we were choosing is what I remember best about him. 

    Sometimes we don’t appreciate a teacher or a particular lesson until years later. But when we need the lesson, it seems to almost magically show up.  When I was so disappointed about not getting the disaster coloring book gig, I could hear Mr. Lee asking “Why is it you draw, Mr. Sullivan?”

    When you were younger, did you know you would eventually be an author and an artist?

    When I was very young, probably in kindergarten, I was told I could be anything I wanted to be. I wanted to be a polar bear. Later, when I started drawing, I wanted to grow up to be Maurice Sendak. It was kind of disappointing when I found out I couldn’t be a polar bear and that Maurice Sendak was already taken. But I knew I wanted to do something related to art and cartooning. Since that was really my heart’s desire, it scared me to death and it took me quite a while to get going. I was a literature major in college and then got a degree in commercial art, so as winding as my path was to becoming an author and artist, I look back and realize I was always heading this way.

    How can teachers encourage students who want to pursue this path?

    Be cheerleaders. Admire their artwork and their writing or whatever it is they are interested in. Help them with spelling and drawing or science equations or layups (whatever they are), but mostly make them feel good about the work they are doing, just the way it is. One of my best teachers taught me the phrase, “approach each problem without a pencil in your hand,” meaning, don’t give them the answer; ask a question instead. They’ll figure it out. Once they gain confidence, you can get into lessons and finer points, but first they have to love what they are doing and see that you love it too. They might grow up to be teachers themselves, helping other kids learn to read. What job is cooler than that?

    © 2013 International Reading Association. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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  • J.M. Bedell is a nonfiction writer and the author of several books for young readers, including SO, YOU WANT TO BE A CHEF?, FINDING COURAGE: HISTORY’S YOUNG HEROES AND THEIR AMAZING DEEDS, COMBATING TERRORISM, TEENS IN PAKISTAN and HILDUR, QUEEN OF THE ELVES. She is also a ghost writer of nonfiction books and web articles, as well as a writer and editor for other nonfiction projects like company training manuals.
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    5 Questions With... J.M. Bedell

    by J.M. Bedell
     | Sep 13, 2013
    J.M. Bedell is a nonfiction writer and the author of several books for young readers, including SO, YOU WANT TO BE A CHEF?, FINDING COURAGE: HISTORY’S YOUNG HEROES AND THEIR AMAZING DEEDS, COMBATING TERRORISM, TEENS IN PAKISTAN and HILDUR, QUEEN OF THE ELVES. She is also a ghost writer of nonfiction books and web articles, as well as a writer and editor for other nonfiction projects like company training manuals. When she is not focused on a nonfiction project, she loves to research and write middle grade historical fiction, like SAVING LIBERTY. She lives in Gaston, Oregon with her husband, two dogs, six goats, nine chickens and a flock of noisy guinea fowl. For more information, visit her website at www.jmbedell.com.

    Your upcoming book SO, YOU WANT TO BE A CHEF? describes a step by step path to becoming a chef. Why is it important for children to have big dreams, but also attainable and actionable goals?

    SO, YOU WANT TO BE A CHEF? is about more than becoming a chef. It’s an encyclopedia of careers that make up the world of the culinary arts. Becoming a chef is the most visible career (think reality television), but there are many career opportunities surrounding food that kids will find interesting.

    Children seem to automatically think big and dream big. Some of that comes from what they see on television or in their everyday lives, and some of it comes from their parents’ influence and expectations. Their dreams need to be encouraged. Wanting to star in a major motion picture, become an Olympic athlete, run for President of the United States, or become a world-famous chef, gets them thinking about the future and what they might want to do when they grow up.

    Without discouraging the big dream, I think parents and teachers can guide kids and give them opportunities to test whether or not their dream is right for them. If they want to be an actor, encourage them to participate in theater classes or audition for commercials. If they want to be the President, then suggest they take debate classes or run for student council. Winning a part in a play or losing a school election are important learning experiences. It’s not about the winning or the losing; it’s about trying…taking a chance no matter the outcome. One kid may learn that he hates being in front of an audience, and the other may learn that even though he lost the election, he really loved the campaign.

    As kids learn their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, they also need someone to come alongside and say, “Hey, I see you’re interested in cooking. Becoming a chef is only one career in that field. Let me show you some other options.” All the books in the Be What You Want series are written with that idea in mind—offering other options to high profile career choices. It’s important that kids understand that every career, from being an actor to being a doctor, veterinarian, or chef, has a superset of careers surrounding them that can be equally interesting, challenging, and rewarding. And, maybe, there’s one that fits their personality, talents, and interests a bit better.

    As you spoke to young chefs for your book, what did you notice as an inspiration or boost that helped them achieve their success?

    The kids that I interviewed are amazing! They don’t seem to let anything stand in their way. However, I did notice that they all had two things in common. First, they have supportive adults or mentors in their lives. Someone, not necessarily their parents, who encouraged, taught and guided them along the way. In my years as a mentor and a court appointed special advocate, I’ve seen how just one truly interested adult can change the life of a kid in ways no one ever imagined. Given the right encouragement, any kid can achieve their dream.

    Second, they love the work and enjoy the process. It isn’t enough to like to cook. You need to enjoy the heat of the kitchen, the challenge of getting meals out on time, etc…. Some of the young chefs also like to help and teach others. For example, Dominick Cura has Celiac disease. He loves to cook and create recipes, but his main motivation is helping other celiac kids not feel deprived of the foods they love most. He offers them alternative options and shows them that they can take control of their disease and enjoy life. It’s important that young adults, who are considering their career choices, look for mentors and strive to understand as much about the work and the process as possible.

    What myths or misconceptions about growing up to be a chef might your book dispel?

    Popular reality-television cooking shows have piqued kids’ interest in the culinary arts. However, those shows give a distorted view of what it really takes to succeed in the industry. Through the voices of the adults and kids I interviewed, anyone who reads the book will understand that it takes not only a passion for food, but a lot of hard work and long hours to excel in the business. I think kids need to know that being the best, in whatever career they choose, takes hard work, perseverance, and a lot of plain old luck. “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Teach kids to keep their eye on the goal, walk steadily toward it, enjoy the journey, and then grab whatever opportunities come their way. That way, even if they never reach their end goal, they’ve enjoyed the ride.

    Your recently updated and expanded book FINDING COURAGE: HISTORY’S YOUNG HEROES AND THEIR AMAZING DEEDS focuses on young people who do world-changing things. How did you decide to focus on role models students could emulate now as opposed to when they grow up?

    I LOVE this book! It was my first published work, and all these years later, I think every middle grade teacher should have a copy of it on their bookshelf. It’s sad that it’s no longer in print and only available as an eBook. That said, it’s still worth reading and will give teachers and librarians a lot of stories to share with their students.

    As I was searching for ideas for a book, I noticed that there were a lot of biographies written about amazing adults and how they impacted world events. What I wasn’t seeing were biographies about amazing kids and how they changed the world. Were they out there? I thought there must be some, but who were they?

    I started my research and sure enough, I found a bunch of them. They just weren’t collected in a single spot. As I sifted through my files of potential candidates, I settled on two criteria. The kids in FINDING COURAGE had to have survived hardship and then done something to improve the lives of others. Like Arn Chorn Pond, who survived the Khmer Rouge (that killed almost every educated/artistic person in Cambodia) and then made it his life’s work to preserve his country’s artistic heritage. With those two criteria in mind, I chose my subjects and wrote the book. The expanded eBook includes new stories that I found after the original publication.

    I think kids need to know that they are strong; that they can survive; and that there is a way to overcome traumatic experiences. So many kids live in really tough situations. They live in poverty, suffer from abuse, or struggle to survive in a nation at war. If they can read about other kids who have survived equally hard circumstances, then maybe they will draw strength from their stories.

    Our theme on the blog for the month of September is “Invent Your Future.” Was there a point in your reading or education that inspired you to become an author?

    I started out studying to become a high school English teacher. Early on, I had a chance to substitute teach and quickly realized that I wasn’t cut out for the daily grind of the classroom. I also realized that in all my college classes, it was the writing that I enjoyed the most. Then, in my junior year, I had an amazing writing teacher. She was the one person who encouraged me to follow my dream and pursue a career in writing.

    There are many options in the writing field, technical writers, journalists, public relations, marketing and a lot more. Writing books is only a subset of the field. I spent several years in public relations before deciding that I wanted to write books. What I learned was that I love the process. I love taking an idea, immersing myself in the research, and then organizing and writing the book. I’ve written some fiction like my Revolutionary War novel, SAVING LIBERTY, but I feel most comfortable with nonfiction.

    I think my journey shows how careers often develop. You start out on one path, and sometimes end up, through the influence of many people, someplace altogether different.  It’s about enjoying the journey and being willing to make course changes, if needed, along the way.  

     

    © 2013 International Reading Association. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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  • Esther Rege Berg is the vice president of stakeholder initiatives for America’s Promise Alliance where she focuses on special projects and coordinates communications with partners, communities, funders and other audiences, as well as edits America’s Promise newsletters. She also leads the Communications Advisory Group, a body of high-level communications professionals, representing America’s Promise Alliance partners.
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    5 Questions With... Esther Berg

    by Esther Berg
     | Sep 06, 2013
    Esther Rege Berg is the vice president of stakeholder initiatives for America’s Promise Alliance where she focuses on special projects and coordinates communications with partners, communities, funders and other audiences, as well as edits America’s Promise newsletters. She also leads the Communications Advisory Group, a body of high-level communications professionals, representing America’s Promise Alliance partners.

    Can you tell us about the work you do with America’s Promise Alliance?

    America’s Promise Alliance is the nation’s largest partnership dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth. We bring together a diverse network of more than 400 national organizations, representing every sector of society focused on helping children and youth receive the resources they need and deserve. Through our Grad Nation campaign, we mobilize Americans to end the high school dropout crisis and prepare young people for college and the 21st century workforce.

    Your #GradNation movement aims to end the dropout crisis in America. What are some of the implications of the current dropout rate?

    A high school diploma matters to individuals, communities, and society. High school graduates are more likely to be employed, make higher taxable income, and aid in job generation. For example, had the nation already reached our 90% goal, the additional graduates from a single class would have increased GDP by an estimated $6.6 billion annually and increased annual local, state, and federal tax revenue by $1.8 billion. Business leaders report difficulty in finding enough qualified employees with the skills, training and education to meet their companies’ needs. If the dropouts in each class were reduced by half, 54,000 new jobs would be created.

    Your organization has declared September “Attendance Awareness Month.” Why?

    We recognize that school attendance is a vital part of achieving the Grad Nation goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020, with no school graduating less than 80 percent of its students.

    The work of America’s Promise is focused on helping more young people have access to the Five Promises—resources that research has shown are crucial to their development—Caring Adults, Safe Places, A Healthy Start, Effective Education, and Opportunities to Help Others. Young people who receive more of the Five Promises are more likely to graduate high school. Regular school attendance is a key component of helping youth graduate.

    Next Tuesday, Sept. 10, America’s Promise Alliance is hosting the #SchoolEveryDay Twitter chat, from 1 PM to 2 PM EST. What can we expect from the chat?

    Together with our Attendance Awareness Campaign partners, you can hear from experts from Attendance Works and the Alliance for Excellent Education, who will answer questions about chronic absence and policy issues surrounding attendance. Additionally, communities participating in Attendance Awareness Month will share some of their plans and recent successes during this inaugural campaign.

    What can we as a country do to help America’s Promise Alliance achieve the goals of Grad Nation?

    In addition to joining the Attendance Awareness Campaign, you can visit www.americaspromise.org/act to find out how to learn more, share information in your communities and networks, volunteer locally, advocate for young people, or otherwise support the Grad Nation campaign.

    Alma Powell, Board Chair of America’s Promise Alliance, is a featured guest speaker at IRA’s International Literacy Day celebration this coming Monday, Sept. 9, and @AmericasPromise is a partner in our “Invent Your Future” Twitter chat that evening, at 8 PM EST. Join us using the hashtag #IRAchat.

    © 2013 International Reading Association. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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  • Alma Flor Ada Professor Emerita of the University of San Francisco is a visionary educator, and prolific author of numerous award-winning children´s books: THE GOLD COIN (Christopher Award); UNDER THE ROYAL PALMS (Pura Belpré Medal); DEAR PETER RABBIT (Parent´s Honor), MY NAME IS MARÍA ISABEL; DANCING HOME; LOVE,AMALIA, I LOVE SATURDAYS Y DOMINGOS (Notable Books for a Global Society List) as well as of A MAGICAL ENCOUNTER: LATINO LITERATURE IN THE CLASSROOM and AUTHORS IN THE CLASSROOM: A TRANSFORMATIVE EDUCATION PROCESS, co-authored with F. Isabel Campoy.
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    5 Questions With... Alma Flor Ada (YES! WE ARE LATINOS)

    by Alma Flor Ada
     | Aug 30, 2013
    Alma Flor Ada Professor Emerita of the University of San Francisco is a visionary educator, and prolific author of numerous award-winning children´s books: THE GOLD COIN (Christopher Award); UNDER THE ROYAL PALMS (Pura Belpré Medal); DEAR PETER RABBIT (Parent´s Honor), MY NAME IS MARÍA ISABEL; DANCING HOME; LOVE,AMALIA, I LOVE SATURDAYS Y DOMINGOS (Notable Books for a Global Society List) as well as of A MAGICAL ENCOUNTER: LATINO LITERATURE IN THE CLASSROOM and AUTHORS IN THE CLASSROOM: A TRANSFORMATIVE EDUCATION PROCESS, co-authored with F. Isabel Campoy. Among other life-time awards, Alma Flor is a recipient of the Virginia Hamilton Literary Award.

    Your latest book, YES! WE ARE LATINOS includes both narrative poems and nonfiction pieces about Latino history and culture. What inspired you to mix genres for this project?

    Both Isabel Campoy, who co-authored YES! WE ARE LATINOS, and I have a profound interest in sharing with children the richness of the Latino history and culture. We believe that presenting narrative poems about present day Latino children gives relevance to the non-fiction information by relating it directly to experiences that may in some cases reflect their own experiences, or the experiences of children they know, or which, in other cases will give them unsuspected insights unto the lives of other children.

    And, of course, we are both strong believers on the magic of poetry!

    The poems and stories in YES! WE ARE LATINOS cover several historical periods and span several continents while still telling personal stories. How did you ensure that the global scale and personal touch were in balance?

    This book took several years to write, but above all it is built upon two long lives of reflections. Isabel and I dialogued extensively about what we wanted to include, of this rich history and culture, or perhaps more about how could we resume all we wanted to say into the space of a book, making sure we were inclusive while accessible to the readers. Always striving to achieve as much balance as possible.

    Some of the poems were created spontaneously as we were working on the book. Others we wrote specifically to serve as introduction to the information in that section. In all cases they represent composites of people we know, children we love. The number of pages restricted us from publishing some of the poems, because indeed, as you have said the book covers several historical periods and spans several continents. Fortunately, we can continue writing, and hopefully we will be able to publish more books about this rich and varied reality.

    You’re very prolific and regularly publish in both English and Spanish. What influence does each language have on you as a storyteller?

    What a fascinating question! Being bilingual is a blessing, but it is also very demanding. For me, it has such profound dimensions that when I needed to decide on a title for my book of adult memoirs, after completing the manuscript, I chose Vivir en dos idiomas (´Living in two languages´) because for me language, as home and support of my being is essential, but I have inhabited, and continue to inhabit two languages, and this dual approach to life, determined by the language used, is one of the most significant aspects in my life. Very tangible at times, as now, writing in English for an English-speaking readership while looking at the Cantabric Sea, from the magnificent Palace of La Magdalena, the building of the Universidad Internacional Menendez Pelayo, where I have been attending some conferences, in the city of Santander, birthplace of one of my grandfathers.

    Spanish is my mother tongue, the language which constantly brings to my memory lines from the poetry of the poets I love, the language I first used for storytelling and for creating poetry. But living in the United States, at some point I began to storytell in English for those children in my family who had not been given the gift of two languages. And slowly I developed a second voice.

    In Spanish humor, rhyme and alliterations, come naturally, nuances and metaphors need no invitation, in English I depend more on the strength of the story, the experiences of the characters. You could almost say I am two different writers. Yet, I strive to also be a bridge between the two.

    As a bilingual educator and author, what advice can you share for teachers who are choosing books and lessons for bilingual readers?

    Look for authentic voices. Believe in books that make you cry or laugh, books that you will remember forever, books that make you look at yourself, at others, at life with new eyes.

    When choosing Spanish poetry, beware of the “easy rhymes”, those made with verbal endings, with adjective or adverb endings, with diminutive suffixes. Poetry does not always require rhyme. There is an abundance of rhyming lines which are not poetry. The best way to distinguish true poetry in Spanish is to get used to reading our extraordinary poets, both all and modern: José Martí, Antonio Machado, Pedro Salinas, García Lorca, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Gabriela Mistral, Pablo Neruda, and those poets who have written for children with the same poetic quality: María Elena Walsh, Elsa Isabel Bornemann, David Chericián, Mirta Aguirre, and so many others.

    Be truthful. Do not hesitate to acknowledge the painful experiences of many bilingual children and their families, the internalized notions of oppression, the racism and prejudice that has been passed on through generations, but make sure to transmit a message of hope, on the capacity of everyone to overcome difficult circumstances, to transform our social realities, not only for ourselves but for everyone.

    Your own teaching career began when you were all of seventeen. What was the path that you followed?

    Upon retiring from the university I wrote an article to share some of what I had learned focused on “a long life of learning to become a teacher” because for me this process of becoming is an unending journey. Respect and appreciation for every human being, regardless their origin, conditions or circumstances has been the guiding force in my life and teaching. And respect and admiration for all there is to know, aware of how little any of us can master of the combined human knowledge –thousands of languages, of literature, of artistic creations, so many sciences and the knowledge each has accumulated means none of us has, nor ever will, reach the level of kindergarten. This is a daunting awareness and yet a liberating feeling.

    All the knowledge I can accumulate will always equal very little, so I must not be dismayed of how little I know, and at the same time it is an extraordinary motivation to continue to want to learn some more, a reaffirmation in the path towards the utopian wisdom.

    I have loved teaching and live in gratitude to my numerous students and what they have taught me in the process of learning together.

    © 2013 International Reading Association. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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