Get your book out there: Your best (and easiest) bet is to begin close to home if you plan to promote a children’s book independently. Contact booksellers in your neighborhood and ask if they have a Local Author section, then request to be included. Offer autographed copies of your book to help spark sales. Stores often put markers on the covers of signed books to make them more attractive to buyers.
Host an in-person event: If your book has a theme, offer to host a promotional event. Don’t be afraid to be creative! Interactive events are a great draw for families and the media (as well as a fantastic opportunity sell your books whilst you’re there)! People are more likely to buy children’s books from authors they’ve met or read about online.
Connect with your local library and book stores: Many authors are surprised by the role libraries can play in children’s book marketing. Donate copies of your book to your local libraries or offer to hold a reading at your library, as most libraries provide activities for children. If the library doesn’t let you sell books on-site, be sure to hand out promotional material or business cards directing people to stores or online sellers where your book is available.
Get to Know Your Neighborhood Schools (or teachers!): Schools are always looking for guest speakers and authors. In most cases, you can arrange to donate books to the school while parents receive order forms for autographed books—which are great for them to give as gifts! Don’t forget to be prepared with an exciting presentation about a theme in your book or your background.
Talk to People!: Always have a camera with you to document children reading your book and viewing your presentations. Don’t be shy about asking for testimonials, either! Testimonials from teachers and librarians are especially valuable because they lend credibility to your book. Make sure to include photos, testimonials, appearances, and events on your website and post to your social media.
Marketing your self-published children’s book can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not keen on using social media or other digital platforms. But whether you’re using tech or not, the key is to build relationships!! I don’t always have time to post on SM but I make it a point to build genuine relationships with people that are interested in the knowledge and ideas I have to share. And there’s no better way than to do that face-to-face!
As a bilingual educator and Ph.D. student in bilingual education, I know first hand that there is an increasing demand for bilingual education books and authentic resources for teachers that are developed and originally written (not translated!) in the languages of their diverse student populations.
As a children’s author, I’ve had the pleasure to meet and connect with other talented children’s book authors who have brought beautifully written stories to life. However, many of those authors don’t have a background in education and are unaware of what is needed in schools or how they can align their published books to those needs.
Writing and publishing a children’s book is one thing. Marketing that book to the right audience is another thing entirely. Authors, particularly those who are self-published, often struggle to find an audience in a saturated market. There is a market in schools, however. The increasing number of bilingual and dual language programs, for example, has created a significant need for resources that will help teachers integrate language, literacy and content in their instruction. Bilingual resources are needed to model rich vocabulary to students. Multicultural texts are needed to increase representation and depict stories from various cultural perspectives.
My books, Mi prima islena y yo/ My Island Cousin and I & Somos gemelas pero no somos identicas / We Are Twins but We Are Not Identical! are just two examples of bilingual children’s books published in the last year. Both of my books were published during the summer of 2021 and highlight the themes of multicultural identity and pride. Mi prima islena y yo juxtaposes the experience of two Puerto Rican cousins: one who lives in the island and one who lives in New York City. The first cousin has the privilege of being immersed in the language and culture of the island on a daily basis. The other cousin lives in a city surrounded by all of the world’s cultures, yet remains closely connected to her island heritage. Somos gemelas y yo juxtaposes the experience of two family members as well, but this time compares the experience of twin sisters of multicultural backgrounds. The twins’ Italian ancestry is more dominant with one twin whereas their father’s Guatemalan ancestry is more evident in the other. The themes of personal and cultural identity are important to highlight with young children who are learning about their connections to their families, their cultures and the world.
I am working on publishing a teacher’s guide for these books, which will be published at the end of 2022. I will post updates on my progress as well as information regarding the launch of the guide.
My experiences working on Naibe’s teacher’s guide as well as my own has inspired me to share important considerations for aspiring children’s authors who are looking to expand their work to a wider audience or hope to align their stories to topics students learn at school:
Familiarize Yourself with the Content
If you’re thinking of writing a teacher’s guide, it is important to ask yourself who the guide is for. Is it for elementary school? Middle school? High school? Will your teacher’s guide be focused on one subject area or will it be multidisciplinary? Once you’ve answered these questions, it’s important for you to familiarize yourself with the content area topics that may be covered for your target grade level(s). If you’re doing a teacher’s guide for social studies, for example, you want to make sure that the topics that are covered are appropriate for your grade level audience.
Does your children’s book align with a particular subject? If not, is there a prominent theme you can extract from your book that can help drive the focus of your teacher’s guide? Maybe your children’s book touches on the development of social-emotional skills or executive functioning skills. The content of a teacher’s guide doesn’t only have to be linked to Language Arts, Math, Science, etc.
Get to Know the Standards
If you’re trying to break into the educational market, it’s important to consider that teachers follow standards when planning for instruction. There are different standards, depending on the course subject, but a great starting point would be to check out the Common Core Standards. These standards are organized by grade level and you can familiarize yourself with the skills students are expected to develop in both English Language Arts and Math. If you’re working on a bilingual teacher’s guide, like me, it’s helpful to also consider the Spanish Common Core Standards.
Make it Engaging, yet Rigorous!
As someone who was in the classroom for fifteen years, I can tell you that I have tried pretty much everything to “entertain” my students. Yes, school should be about learning and not entertaining, but let’s be real. It is much easier to get children to do what they’re “supposed to do” if they are highly motivated and engaged.
That is why it is very important to make sure that the activities and lessons included in your teacher’s guide are fun, as well as highly educational. Your teacher’s guide should have more than simple worksheets and fill-in-the-blank activities. If possible, make sure to include 21st-century activities and skills like digital literacy and environmental stewardship.
Teachers are busy, busy people. They are highly appreciative of resources that will make their busy lives easier and will save them time. If a teacher can find a resource that is well aligned to the content and the standards they teach AND will make their kids happy because they’re engaged and having fun, you have a winner!
These are just some preliminary considerations for anyone interested in creating a teacher’s guide. I will continue to share my progress in the coming weeks and months as well as some sample lessons and activities.
If writing a teacher’s guide seems too overwhelming and you’d much rather delegate the task, I’d be happy to help! Please reach out to me by completing this contact form so we can set up a time and date to meet to discuss your teacher guide or children’s book’s authorship vision!
A lot that has already been said about bringing up girls: Ones who refuse to be defined by their gender, that demand equality and to have their voices be heard. Not much is written about the role of parents in bringing up these young ladies, however!
I have heard many parents (fathers especially) claim, “I am not a misogynist, but I do think girls’ roles are very different from boys, and we should accept this as just a fact of life.” As a proud feminist and mother to four girls, statements like these annoy me to no end. Prejudiced attitudes like these sow seeds of misogyny early in children’s minds and lives and are then perpetuated on to future generations.
If you think about it on a larger scale, I do not think anyone can claim not to hold misogynist ideas. Signs of gender bias are everywhere: in our homes, schools, public spaces, movies, literature, advertisements, news, TV shows — it has permeated our entire lives. Inevitably, it is our choice on what to do when we become aware of this fact: We can either continue the cycle, or mindfully opt out and make a conscious change.
One way we can stop the sexist cycle is by becoming more mindful of our language. For instance, just observe the words we use to praise little girls: “nice”, “sweet” and the ever pervasive “good girl”; for boys we use “strong”, “tough”, “brave”. The way we talk to our children become part of their subconscious, and the way we talk about them become their life stories.
Language is also the thread that builds the discourse around identities. If girls are only “gentle” or “nice”, then their identities get restricted, and then they actively seek protection from men who are “tough” and “strong”. Do not mistake it: warped and restrictive dichotomies are set up for children from a very young age!
Misogyny always catches us unawares, whether it is through a sexist joke or a flippant remark. “Are you going to keep trying for another boy?” was one I used to hear all the time. “Your poor husband, living in a house with so much oestrogen”! is an old ‘favourite’. Sexism might come through in the way men in the family talk to the women in the house; what gets to be said by whom, with what authority, and what effects it causes. Like sponges, children absorb this, and internalise for future use.
Gender biases come in our homes in so many ways: dolls for girls and cars for boys, pink for girls and blue for boys, dance for girls and sports for boys. Yes, children ultimately show agency towards their choice, but you cannot deny that their choices are sometimes influenced by societal views on gender norms.
One thing I want my girls to learn is that boys have their own failings and frustrations that they deal with and give them the tools to handle themselves should a boy unleash these on them. In terms of gender politics in relationship, I find that when men feel inadequate, they take it out on women, and when women feel inadequate, they take it out on themselves. I want my girls to not be hard of themselves just because a boy has projected his inadequacies on them.
That brings me to another critical issue: girls and their bodies. It horrifies me to think of the pressure we put on our girls to be of a certain body type and to look a certain way. It kills me to see young girls feel inferior just because they do not fit a cookie-cutter mould of what society thinks they should look like to be found ‘acceptable’. All of us need to have open conversations on how there should not be conformity when it comes to body types and skin colour. Beauty is open ended and should not be defined by outdated and archaic preconceptions.
When we talk about misogyny and gender differences, typically the issue of safety comes up. Parents try to put limits on how girls dress, or where their girls should go and when, whilst boys are giving much more freedom. I understand the concern having lived through unfortunate situations myself, but I also worry that limiting my daughters like this becomes more of a sexist exercise rather than a moralistic one. I can already hear my frustrated younger self screaming, “Everything I do, say, and wear is always up for inspection! Meanwhile my brother can get away with anything just because he is a boy!” How unfair is that?
Rather than just putting the onus on our girls for their safety, what we should be doing having more conversations with boys on what they can do to make this world safer for girls.
Feminist icon Gloria Steinem famously said, “The first problem for all of us (men and women) is not to learn, but to unlearn”. I admittedly have much to unlearn, but hopefully by doing so I can help my daughters rise above the toxicity of misogyny and grow up to be “strong”, “tough” and “brave”.
As our world becomes more and more diverse, children are more likely to be born in families where various cultures are represented. Children may have a parent who is Latinx while the other parent African-American parent, for example. In some cases, children may have parents that are both Latinx and Spanish speaking, but one parent may be from one country (i.e. Mexico) while the other parent is from another country (i.e. Cuba).
In our culturally diverse world, many people grow up being surrounded by multiple languages, multiple cultures and multiple belief systems. Therefore, it is important that we have conversations with our children about identity at an early age, so they learn to identify and explore issues of cultural intersectionality and possible instances of cultural privilege or hegemony.
My children are being raised by Latinx, Spanish speaking parents. Some of the other children in my family are raised by one Latinx parent and others are being exposed to other cultures. There are a variety of situations present in our family and I can imagine that the complexities extend beyond our circle.
Even though my children are being raised to speak Spanish, one issue that has presented itself that I’ve often wondered about is whether or not they will “internalize” all of the cultures in the same way? Will their Spanish sound more Mexican, for example? Will they prefer arroz con habichuelas and arepas over tacos?
My experiences as a parent raising children exposed to different Latinx cultures inspired me to write two children’s books. The overall idea behind these books is to explore how cultural identities develop and what societal factors impact stronger development of one culture over another.
The first book, titled Mi prima islena y yo / My Island Cousinand I tells the story of two cousins from Puerto Rico: One who lives on the island and has had the opportunity to be completely immersed in the island’s culture and the Spanish language, whilst the other cousin is Puerto Rican as well, but lives in the United States with her family. The book explores the sense of cultural pride expressed by both girls and touches on the development of diverging cultural identities between them.
The second book, titled Somos gemelas pero no somos identicas! / We Are Twins but We Are Not Identical! is a story inspired by my very own fraternal twins. This story is for twin parents who have been repeatedly asked the question: “Are they twins?” The book tells a whimsical story of twin girls who despite sharing the same parents and living in the same home, are also developing diverging identities.
Anyone who is raising multilingual or multicultural children should be prepared for the possibility that not all cultures or languages may develop at the same pace. There are various factors that impact cultural identity and these two books are an example of how diverging identities are being formed in my family.
Both books will be available for pre-order on Amazon on Saturday June 12th. They will be available in hardcover, paperback and e-book versions.
In the abstract of her academic article titled “Challenges and Benefits of Early Bilingualism in the United States’ Context,” Linda M. Espinoza, from the University of Missouri-Columbia, states that although the young dual language learner (DLL) population in the United States has tripled in the last several decades, most young dual language learners in the United States are not receiving early child education that supports their emergent bilingualism.
Research findings conducted at the secondary level don’t yield very positive results either. In the academic article titled “Cultural and Linguistic Investment: Adolescents in a Secondary Two-Way Immersion Program,” Carol Bearse and Ester J. de Jong indicate that many of the students they interviewed in their study acknowledged that as they moved through the secondary years, their exposure to Spanish declined, while their English dominated their school day.
As a doctoral student doing research in dual language, reading findings such as these disappoint me. As a dual language program coordinator that has worked at expanding dual language programs at the middle and high school level, I find these findings frustrating. However, as a mother who is trying to ensure that her daughters grow up to be multilingual in the United States, these findings make me especially anxious and nervous for the future of my own children.
Many of my friends, family members and people I’ve encountered in passing have expressed to me that they’ve given up on the idea of “pushing” a second language on their children. They admit, with a strong sentiment of mixed shame and regret, that it is a struggle to get their children to do anything in Spanish (or their heritage language) and that they are just not interested in putting up a fight anymore.
Teaching our children a second, or third language, in the United States is a tremendous investment. I’m sure everyone will agree that there are both immediate and long term benefits of speaking multiple languages. However, making this an actual possibility just doesn’t to seem to be a priority in the United States.
There is no question that I’m fully invested in the biliteracy development of my daughters. It hasn’t been an easy process, though. That is why I’m going to share some of the obstacles that I am currently facing on my journey as a parent trying to raise multilingual children. These obstacles are currently on my radar as potential factors that, if not addressed, can cause a decline in my daughters’ Spanish (or other) language investment and growth.
Pressure to Do Well in English standardized tests – My two older daughters are currently in school and even though they are both enrolled in a dual language elementary school, they are still required to take standardized tests that will impact the high schools and universities they attend in the future. These standardized tests all measure academic proficiency in ENGLISH. To my knowledge, their school district does not offer Spanish language assessments to help track their overall Spanish language development. These English language standardized exams are difficult enough for students who ONLY speak English. For instance, 50% of the students who take the NWEA MAP (the standardized test offered to students in my state) either meet or exceed their grade level expectations. https://www.nwea.org/blog/2013/partner-questions-month-percentage-students-meet-growth-targets/ This piece of data makes me a bit nervous for my oldest daughter, who is currently in third grade, and will be taking the NWEA MAP for the first time this year. In addition to the NWEAP MAP, she also has to take the ACCESS test. The ACCESS test is given to any student who doesn’t meet the required English Language proficiency at the time their language skills are screened in kindergarten. My daughter didn’t speak a word of English until she entered kindergarten, and obviously, didn’t meet the expected English Language proficiency when given the language screener. I definitely don’t like the idea that she will not have to take two standardized tests in English this year and I certainly don’t like the idea that her failure to meet English language expectations will cause her to carry the very much stigmatized label of “English Language Learner” and may also deter her from gaining admission to a more “selective” high school. Any parent who finds themself in the same situation as me can be tempted to “abandon” the use of the second language in favor of English. Using more English to boost test scores, though well-intentioned, can send the message to our children that the English language has more intrinsic value than their heritage language.
What to Do Then? I am in, no way, implying that parents should not encourage the academic development of English, especially if that is the language assessed in standardized tests, college entrance exams and so forth. Though difficult, it is important to consistently try to find a balance between the academic exposure our children get in both languages. I, personally, make it a point to familiarize myself with the topics that my daughters are learning at school and I look for any gaps. Currently with the pandemic leading to decreased live instructional time, my oldest daughter’s teacher is focusing her attention on Reading Comprehension, Math and Writing skills. I suspect she is doing this because these are the areas that will be assessed in the NWEA. When my daughter isn’t in class, I have work on either Social Studies or Science in Spanish or I try to touch on some of the grammatical concepts that I don’t really so covered in her classes. For instance, I’ve noticed that my daughters’ teachers don’t really do spelling tests like my teachers used to give me when I was in school. Therefore, I give my daughters’ weekly spelling tests to ensure they have the foundational skills they need as they move on to the upper grades.
2. Shortage of Bilingual Speech Therapists – A tremendous challenge that I’ve faced is supporting the biliteracy development of one of my three-year old twins, who has a significant language delay. She received some speech therapy for a few months but once everything shut down due to the pandemic, her services stopped. She was offered virtual speech therapy sessions once a week for 30 minutes at a time, but I turned them down. It was difficult enough to fight and get her a bilingual speech therapist and they could no longer guarantee that the same speech therapist would offer her the virtual speech language therapy. Therefore, I had to become her speech therapist. Her comprehension in Spanish is great and she attempts to repeat everything we say. However, much of what she says in Spanish is still not fully comprehensible. I’ve taken her to an ENT specialist, who ruled out that she is tongue-tied. Neither her pediatrician nor her previous speech therapist suggested it, but I strongly believe she has some sort of verbal dyspraxia. The articles that I’m linking below has been a great resource for me:
I’m still doing my research on this condition and I’m strongly considering sending her to a specialist. The research I’ve done points to a lack of support materials for parents with children who have apraxia/dyspraxia, in general. I can imagine the scarcity of resources for parents of children with apraxia who are making a conscious effort to develop their skills in TWO languages.
What to Do Then? I’m still actively looking for a bilingual speech therapist who specializes in apraxia/dyspraxia. In the meantime, however, I continue to offer bilingual support at home. I haven’t given up on the idea that she will be bilingual one day and I continue to use Spanish as the home language. However, I often have her repeat many of the words we practice with in English. The English language seems to have many more one-syllable words that are easier to pronounce. Many of the foundational words in the Spanish language are two syllables long, such as: si-lla, ca-sa, ma-no, a-zul. These same words (chair, house, hand, blue) are only one syllable long, in English. I have found that my daughter has an easier time pronouncing these words in English. However, that doesn’t mean that I plan on “picking” English over Spanish. I’m determined to supporting her development in both languages. I will definitely continue documenting my progress. I’m sure there are other parents who may be dealing with the same issue.
Lack of Academic Resources in the Second Language – On a previous blog post, I wrote about the difficulties I’ve encountered in finding Spanish reading material for my daughters as they continue to get older.
Finding books in Spanish that they would be interested in reading independently has been one issue. Finding resources in Spanish that would continue to support their development of academic skills in Spanish has been another issue.
When my daughters aren’t in remote learning live lessons or have completed their homework, they complete exercises from workbooks, such as Brain Quest. I LOVE the Brain Quest series! The workbook is very comprehensive and I use it to have my daughters practice some of the skills that her teachers perhaps don’t have the time to cover this year.
If ONLY Brain Quest would publish some workbooks in Spanish or some of the other widely spoken second languages in the United States! As mentioned at the beginning of this post, dual language programs continue to expand in the United States and quality second language resources are desperately needed!
My daughters’ dual language teachers rely heavily on online platforms such as Imagine Learning and Brain Pop to reinforce skills in Spanish. These platforms are good but, I’m a big fan of traditional paper and pencil tasks. When my daughters physically write down what they learn in a notebook or in a workbook, I can clearly see what they know or don’t know. That isn’t always the case with the online platforms.
The other day, for example, I caught my first grader coasting through Imagine Learning, randomly choosing answers without thinking just to move further along in the program. Her teachers track her progress on how long she is logged on, which is a minimum of 20 minutes daily. I would rather have her spend those 20 minutes writing in a notebook or workbook. Her responses will be documented for me to view at any time and I could have a clearer indication of what her skills are.
What to Do Then? I think it’s important for parents who are raising bilingual / multicultural children to ask themselves these questions: How well do you want your child to speak (or read/write/understand) the second language? Do you want your child to simply speak the second language or do you want your child to be fully biliterate, or multiliterate?
In my case, these are the language goals I have for my own children:
I want my daughters to have strong academic skills in both Spanish and English.
I want my daughters to feel equally comfortable speaking Spanish and English.
I want them to feel proud of their skills in both languages.
I want my daughters to have a strong enough language learning foundation, that they are able to learn a third (and maybe even a fourth!) language.
Because the language goals I’ve set for my own children are hefty, I recognize that I need to do the legwork and find them the resources they need to support their academic development in multiple languages. This is something I’m still working on and researching so expect a blog post on this topic soon , as well!
As a parent trying to raise bilingual / multilingual children in the United States (or anywhere, for that matter!), what obstacles have you encountered? What challenges have you found especially daunting?