By Rocío Hernández
Low access to Spanish children’s books in Washoe County has motivated Spanish-speaking students at the University of Nevada, Reno to write their own.
Over a dozen stories were produced during a Spanish Club meeting in collaboration with Washoe County School District literacy specialist Cory Munson and Spanish fraternity Sigma Delta Pi on Friday, April 10. The group hopes to produce Spanish books aimed for children from kindergarten to second grade and gift them to English as a Second Language and students interested in learning the language throughout the county by August. Sigma Delta Pi President Tony Leman said that he expects the donated books to promote a love for learning and Hispanic culture.
Munson noticed the need for Spanish books after working at schools with large Latino student populations.
“Parents were interested in improving the literacy of their child at home, but we didn’t have any books to give them all of our books were in English and most of them only spoke Spanish,” Munson said. “Our goal is to create our own Spanish books and give them to children in the community who aren’t necessarily English-speakers, because what we found is having books in your home, having a personal library is one of the most critical indicators of academic success.”
Along with writers, the group hopes to find illustrators that will be able to produce art to accompany the text. After the stories are finalized, Leman said they will be edited and published. Munson said that the writing workshop not only gave students the opportunity to serve their community, but also allowed them to practice their Spanish writing and reading skills and the chance to having their work published.
Sean Rawlings was invited to come to the workshop by his Spanish 112 professor and Spanish club advisor Beatriz Robinson. It was his first time attending a club meeting and his primary motivation was to make a difference in a child’s life.
“When I was kid I used to enjoy reading,” Rawlings said. “I grew up in Guatemala so this actually gives me the chance to give another Spanish speaker a book. I believe it’s important because a lot of people don’t know how to read and starting at the basics is what will make you a better reader.”
Event organizers urged participants to brainstorm story ideas easy enough for a child to read.
Rawlings wrote a story about a Mayan kid from a village afflicted by drought. He said the book will end with the child pleasing the Mayan gods through a rain dance.
Junior Michah Nauck chose to write a story centered on nutrition. His story starts with a boy that dislikes green vegetables. Toward the conclusion, the boy is willing to eat his vegetables since he wants to grow up to be as strong as his father.
Nauck loves to eat fruits and vegetable and he hopes his story will promote healthy eating habits.
His other story is based around fantasy. Nauck imagines a land where boys and girls live isolated from each other. By chance, one of the boys runs into a strange creature he has never seen before, a girl. Nauck currently plans to end his story just as the kids smile at each other. He hopes his readers make the story their own by deciding on what they like to happen next.
The group is still in need of more illustrator volunteers and is willing to accept more story submissions, but Munson said he was happy with the quality and quantity of stories submitted on Friday.
“This is the first time something like this has been done,” Munson said. “We are excited. We are making this up as we go as far as crowdsource books where it’s all volunteer based, everything from the writer to the publisher to the illustrator. It’s all just done with university talent, university sources and we are doing it to benefit the local community, so I hope that this is something that picks up in the future.”
Rocío Hernández can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @rociohdz19.