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Writing a Teacher’s Guide for Your Children’s Book

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.

My bilingual children’s books (published in June & July 2021) are available for purchase on Amazon

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.

I also recently had the pleasure of creating a teacher’s guide for author Naibe Reynoso, based on her collection of bilingual biographies including Be Bold! Be Brave!, Fearless Trailblazers & Courageous History Makers.

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!

Final Thoughts

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!

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LATINA AUTHORS VIRTUAL HOLIDAY BOOK FAIR 

I am happy to announce that I will be part of this years LATINA AUTHORS VIRTUAL HOLIDAY BOOK FAIR! 

This HOLIDAY SEASON, get the gifts that your loved ones can open forever: BOOKS!

Please Join me and other amazing others on Sunday, Dec. 5th – at 2pm PT/3pm MT/4pmCT/5pmET!

Click on the link below to register: 

⚡️Free to Register!

⚡️Get Discounts on amazing books

⚡Support Latina Authors 

#supportsmallbusinessess #latinxstores #supportLatinaownedbusinesses #shopLatina #shopLatinx #smallbusinesssaturday #latina #bilingualbooks #spanishbooks #booksforbilingualbabies #ownvoices #ownvoice

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Self-Publishing Bilingual Children’s Books (Part 2!)

My debut children’s book Mi prima islena y yo / My Island Cousin and I will be released on Saturday June 12th

Countdown to launch!

It’s been a very hectic few months as I work to prepare all the final details for the launch of my debut books!

Self-publishing books hasn’t been easy. It’s been a journey full of as many ups as downs, but I wouldn’t discourage anyone truly interested in sharing a great story with the world to not take the risk and set out on this path.

In the first part of my self-publishing post, I talked about the first phase of my process, highlighting some of the major action steps that I took to get the ball rolling.

In this post, I want to highlight the steps I took after the illustration and proofreading process:

  1. Book Formatting: I’m sure everyone has a different experience, but for me, one of the most daunting and stressful process was the formatting process. Up to this point, my self-publishing journey had been relatively easy. I was fortunate enough to find fantastic illustrators for each of my books. However, before a book can be published, it needs to be properly formatted. Formatting entails that all of your spreads are laid out as they should be and that the illustrations and the text come out clearly.

Anticipate having to format your book multiple times! For one of my books, the spreads were off, so I needed to get it reformatted and reprinted. You have to pay each time you need to upload a new file and pay for the printing and shipping.

You should also establish a budget if you plan self-publishing your children’s book — something I quickly learned! With the illustrations, proofreading, formatting, etc. the expenses can quickly add up.

2. Choosing the right self-publishing platform: There are a few self-publishing platforms you can use to publish your book. Some of the most common ones are Amazon KDP, Ingram Spark and Lulu. Ultimately, I decided to publish the paperback and hardcover copies of my books on Ingram Spark. I decided to publish my e-books on Amazon KDP.

I found Ingram Spark to be very easy to use. Printing multiple proofs of my books and having them shipped out multiple times was a bit expensive, however. I ordered rush shipping for my proofs various times because I wanted to speed up the process. Expect to pay 15 dollars or more on shipping each time!

3. ISBN & Copyright: You cannot publish a book without an ISBN number, so you must apply for copyright protection under the U.S. Copyright Office to ensure that your work is protected. I purchased a package of 10 ISBN numbers along with two copyright registrations from Bowker. If you plan on publishing multiple versions of your book (hardcover, paperback, eBook), keep in mind that each version will require its own ISBN number.

Once you’ve purchased the copyright protection, you must complete an application from the U.S. Copyright Office website. You must pay a fee for each copyright registration.

4. Marketing: Once you are satisfied with your proofs and all paperwork has been completed, you are ready to enable your book for distribution. However, I wouldn’t recommend publishing your book without having done some serious marketing first. I spent about a month and a half launching my marketing plan and these are some of the things that I did to increase visibility for my book launch:

Organized an in person book launch: I am pairing up with another local author to organize a book promotion event on Saturday June 12th & Sunday June 13th. At this event, we will be doing a book talk and reading of our books. We will also have printed books available to sign and sell.

Interviews: A great way to bring visibility for your books is by doing interviews prior to your launch. I participated in an interview for a podcast called Wachame: Testimonios de Resilencia, which is set to air on Saturday June 12th (the day of the launch of my first book). Here is the link:

I also participated in a radio interview by Vocalo Radio in Chicago. There is a segment called Domingos en Vocalo and I had the opportunity to talk about my books, as well as the event I’ve been planning.

Social Media Promotion: Posting consistently on social media is also very important. I make it a point to post an update on my publishing journey, digital flyers advertising my book and promotion event, pictures of my books, etc. at least once a week. The two social media sites I use the most are Facebook and Instagram, but other platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn can also be helpful in raising visibility.

-Develop a launch team: Recruit people who would be willing to read and help you promote your book. Since I am a bilingual educator and I am publishing two bilingual children’s books, I am part of various social media groups for bilingual/multicultural parents, bilingual educators and bilingual education scholars. I announced my launch to various special interest groups that I am a part of, and I was able to gather a team of people who would provide me with feedback on my books and would help me promote the launch of each book.

Overall, I have learned SO much from this experience. I felt overwhelmed before I started and I experienced moments when I felt unsure about being able to pull this off. I didn’t give up, was able to push through and I learned a lot from the process.

I am beyond excited to announce the launch of my two children’s book, inspired by my four daughters and my experience raising bilingual / multicultural children.

My first book, Mi prima islena y yo / My Island Cousin and I will be released on Saturday June 12th. It will be available on paperback, hardcover and eBook.

My second book, Somos gemelas pero no identicas / We Are Twins But We Are Not Identical! will be released on Thursday July 1st. It is also available in paperback, hardcover and eBook.

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Self-Publishing a Bilingual Children’s Book

I’ve been in education for almost twenty years and I do love it. As stressful as teaching can be, it is highly rewarding. I love children and it is a privilege to serve their families and their communities. That being said, my pipe dream has always been to be a children’s book author.

When I was a kid, I wrote many stories during my spare time. Internet didn’t exist and my mom didn’t let us watch a lot of of TV. Being bored helped me develop A LOT of creativity. So I began putting my scattered ideas on paper. Sometimes I wrote stories about animals. Sometimes I wrote about princesses. Some of my stories were about little girls, just like me. Sometimes, I wrote the stories and my younger brother drew the pictures. I stapled the pages together and created a book. I remember feeling an immense sense of pride whenever I created a new one. I didn’t realize it then, but I was acting out what, in my heart, I knew I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

At some point along the way, I internalized the message that writing wouldn’t be a lucrative career. I never saw many books with characters or stories that connected to me in a real way. Growing up in the 90s, I didn’t have access to a lot of multicultural literature at school. Writing and publishing a book always seemed like an unattainable dream. Who would publish anything I would write? What does publishing a book even cost? What if I published a book and everyone HATED it? So I put my dream in a box, and I tucked it away somewhere deep in my mind, so that I could focus my attention on following a path of certainty and stability.

Again, don’t get me wrong, I have loved being a teacher. Following that path of stability has served me well. It has taught me so much about children, our society and myself. Being an educator has helped me a better mother. It is helping me tremendously in my doctoral research. And perhaps now that experience and knowledge that I’ve acquired as a bilingual educator can help me unpack my tucked away dream of writing books for children who, like me, are eager to really see themselves in the stories they read.

For the past year, I’ve been working on self-publishing my first two children’s books. Both of these books are very personal and are also closely tied to my identity as a Latina, a mother and an educator. I will publish more details about each book in the weeks to come, but for now, I wish to share a bit of my journey as a self-published author.

Get inspired by your surroundings

It is no secret that many authors often connect their writing to personal experiences. When I taught Spanish literature at the high school level, my students and I would explore how many of the authors wrote about topics that were very closely tied to their lives. Federico Garcia Lorca wrote about his experiences living in under a tyrannical Spanish government. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s fictional town of Macondo was heavily inspired by his own birthplace. It was through reading the stories of some of these world-renowned authors that I realized that I have my own interesting stories to tell. My life right now isn’t ultra adventurous but that doesn’t mean I can’t write about what I am most immersed in right now, right? And right now, I’m most immersed in the lives of my four young daughters.

My two books: Mi prima isleña y yo & ¡Somos gemelas, pero no somos idénticas! are inspired by my four daughters. In fact, one book is dedicated to my older daughters and the second book is dedicated to my fraternal twin daughters.

Work on your craft

Months before I sat down and wrote out each story, I signed up for a few writing courses on Udemy. The two courses I took are called:

  1. Publish your Children’s Picture Book
  2. The Foundations of Fiction

There are various other writing courses on Udemy and online, in general. The price of the courses now may be different than I what I paid for but Udemy often has promotions and I often purchase courses when they are on sale.

It was important for me to really verse myself on the elements of writing a good story before sitting down and writing one. Writing a children’s book isn’t as easy as people might think. It is true that the stories are generally shorter and the language is simpler, but because of those things, it is important to choose your words carefully and be thoughtful about the flow of the story.

I’m by no means an expert in children’s writing yet and I hope to continue working on improving on my style and my ability to tell a cohesive story.

Research the process

To research how to publish a children’s book, I also spent a good amount of time researching the process. I downloaded and read through various self-publishing checklists I found on the internet. I joined a few Facebook groups for self-published authors. I watched a few videos on YouTube. I tried the research various perspectives on the self-publishing process so that I could find overlapping themes and get some ideas on how to carve out the path that best worked for me.

Some of the videos that I found on YouTube are linked below:

  1. thatssojayah
  2. Scattered Brilliancy
  3. Michelle Farley

These videos stood out to me for various reasons. Firstly, all of the authors on these videos are people of color who write books to give a voice and authentic representation to children of color. Secondly, these authors provided interesting insight on how to self-publish a book entirely on your own. I learned something valuable from each of these videos ranging from book illustration, marketing, setting realistic goals and solidifying my niche.

Hire an illustrator

Drawing is not my thing. In addition to my fear of failure, my lack of artistic ability is probably the other factor that kept me from attempting to publish a children’s book for so long. Originally, I was hoping my brother would illustrator the two books I am now publishing but, unfortunately, our schedules didn’t coincide. I’m hoping to get him on board to publish some of my children’s books in the near future!

Thanks to the videos that I found on YouTube, I learned about Fiverr and the many services that are offered there. It was there that I was fortunate enough to find the illustrator of Mi prima isleña y yo: Vidya Lalgudi Jaishankar.

I worked with Vidya for a total of five months. The experience was fantastic. She is an extremely talented illustrator who is based in England. It was truly a honor to collaborate with her and have her integrate her personal style to make my book come to life.

I found the author of my second book, ¡Somos gemelas, pero no somos idénticas! on a Facebook group called Chicago Latina Moms (https://www.chicagolatinamoms.com/). I’ve been part of this fantastic community for years now and I’ve found recommendations from everything ranging to bakers and travel ideas. I knew that perhaps I could find a talented Latina artist in the group and I wasn’t wrong.

I knew that I wanted one of the illustrators of my books to be a Latina and working with a local artist was a tremendous bonus. Through CLM, I was able to connect to Diana Torres. Working with Diana has also been an outstanding experience. Her quirky style gives my second book a look that is different than the other book but breathes life into the story in a unique way.

Get your work proofread

Even though I am highly proficient in both Spanish and English, I knew that it was important for me to get my book proofread by an experienced, bilingual proofreader. I was able to connect to a bilingual proofreader through Fiverr who not only checked my story for grammar and accuracy in both languages but also gave me some meaningful feedback pertaining to the overall direction of my story. It was a bit nerve-wracking to have a stranger pick apart my story, but it was an extremely valuable experience. It is a part of the self-publishing process that should NOT be left out, by any means.

Both of my books are currently undergoing formatting and, at a later date, I will post updates on that process as well as another crucial component of the self-publishing journey: marketing. Marketing is a tricky beast and that topic may require multiple posts in the near future.

Conclusion

For now, I will end this post reiterating how important it is to not relinquish your dreams. I have learned so much from starting this process and I am hopeful for the future. All of our stories have value and sharing them with the world is both cathartic and altruistic.