Growing up, Susie Jaramillo remembers singing “Los Pollitos,” a bedtime song about a hen taking care of her hatchlings that is as popular in Latin America as “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” is in the US. Now a mom, the Venezuelan-American hoped to pass down these popular children’s stories to her own kids, except, when she went to the library or bookstore, Spanish-language tales weren’t in sight. That’s when she decided to create her own.
Starting in 2016, Canticos is a series of bilingual books, companion apps and singalong videos for little ones aimed at expanding inclusion and creating cultural pride among youth.
“If you’re Latino living in the United States, sometimes you have this feeling of otherness, and what I want to make clear to my children is that their language and their culture is a part of the American tapestry,” Jaramillo, a mother of two, told NBC News.
According to the news outlet, the US has more than 41 million Spanish-speakers, but less than 1 percent of all American books are in Spanish. Canticos is trying to fill the void. With seven picture books, telling the stories of Los Pollitos, Los Ratoncitos, Las Mañanitas and more, Jaramillo is sharing the rhymes she learned as a kid with children growing up in the US
“When I had my first child, I went online and thought: Where are all the board books of these songs that I grew up with” Jaramillo, a former co-founder of a Latino-focused New York advertising agency, told the Associated Press. “We’re always singing the American songs in Spanish, and our songs are great. Why aren’t people singing them in English?”
Catincos, which Jaramillo says is in high demand, is using hard books, apps and now a digital series through a partnership with Nickelodeon, which will soon begin selling Catincos toys, clothing and decor, is giving families who want to raise bilingual children more opportunities to do so.
For the children, it’s a fun way to stay or become connected to a culture that feels at once close yet distant.
“I like the songs, because some of them are really catchy,” a child told NBC News. “It teaches you that’s it’s important to learn more than one language,” another youth added about Catincos.
Canticos books are available at Target, Walmart, buybuy Baby and Barnes & Noble as well as online.
One of the biggest challenges faced by migrant families is deciding how to better get their kids to speak both languages. In the case of the Latino population in the United States and other Anglo countries, these idiomas are Spanish and English. Parents face the life altering decision of either fully embracing English at home or keeping the mother tongue alive. The choice might seem easy, but it involves a variety of factors. You might want your kid to be fully fluent in Spanish but don’t want them to feel left out when they go to school and their English is not there yet. You might be alone in the country and want your kids to fully assimilate, even though you don’t want them to lose your language and eventually forget your heritage. They say language shapes worlds and that is totally right: we use words to make sense of reality, to explain who we are to ourselves and to others.
Good news is, kids are really como esponjas, todo lo absorben. Children have an amazing capacity to assimilate words and concepts, and can easily switch from one language to the other if you give them the time and space to learn the difference between the two. By the time they are 18 months old, kids start categorizing the world: that is when they learn shapes, simple concepts like open/close and in/out, and also when they can start differentiating between languages. Like anything when it comes to parenting, there are no cookie cutter solutions or formulas, but here are some tips that can help out.
No baby talk, ever.
It is tempting to do baby talk with your little one. But it does them no good. Babies need to hear clear words, and going goo goo ga ga is not helping them. A good technique is to describe your actions: “I am changing your nappy, I am throwing it to the trash can, I am wiping your butt”. Or, the alternative: “Te estoy cambiando el pañal, ahora lo voy a tirar a la basura y te voy a limpiar las pompas”. Even if you are not raising a bilingual kid, this is the first rule: just dump the baby talk, porfas.
Be proud of your heritage.
Children are much more intuitive than we give them credit for. In the current political climate, it is easy to fall into the trap and feel like being bilingual is shameful rather than something to be extremely proud of. Give racist gringos the metaphorical finger, chin up, speak up and show pride. If you are afraid of speaking Spanish your kid will be too. It is easier said than done, but establishing the richness of multiculturalism is the only way to make society more inclusive, poquito a poco.
One parent speaks English, the other speaks Spanish.
This is an approach that is easy to take if one of the parents is a gringo. Kids can quickly understand that a parent talks to them in Spanish and the other one in English, and as they are learning to talk and bulking up on their vocabulary, they can categorize words. This is much clearer than saying “agua, water” while pointing to glass, as it might be too much information that is not put into the Spanish or English mental drawers right away. Also, it creates a great sense of complicity between parent and chaparrito.
Spanish only con los abuelitos.
Another good strategy is to have the grandparents speak to the child in Spanish, which also creates a special bond with the child. If you are lucky enough to have your Spanish-speaking parents or in-laws in your city, program regular play dates slash Spanish lessons. This can also give you and your partner some time alone, or some relaxing me-time if you are a single parent.
Language is fun, so don’t make it too serious.
Play games in your native language. For example, ‘I spy’, bingo or memory, key activities for incorporating new words into your little one’s vocabulary. You can also play a good old-fashioned LOTERIA.
Turn life into a lively musical!
All kids love, love, love music. You can sing songs, dance and play music in Spanish. What about a daily dance session with La Sonora Santanera or Los Angeles Azules? Melody is a great way to help them remember things, as new information sticks to their tiny and amazing brains by repetition. You can also play English and Spanish versions of their favorite songs… Let it go, let it go…..! Libre soy, libre soy!
Never underestimate the importance of numbers.
One of the first forms of abstraction that human beings learn is numbers. As your kids start counting, introduce both languages. There are some fun activities that you can do, such as taking them to the park and counting each push of the swing, first in English up to ten, luego hasta el diez. You can also get them to count characters or objects in books as you read to them at night.
Teach them the Spanish version of key introductory phrases.
“My name is…”, a key phrase that establishes a child’s individuality. There are such phrases that make social life possible. Teach your kids the Spanish formulation.
Listen to the radio.
Listen to radio programs in Spanish, including popular music programs and channels for kids. Thanks to services like Spotify it is easy now to listen to stations from all around the world.
Organize playtime with other children who speak Spanish. This will be key for building lifelong friendships. Parenting can sometimes be isolating, so this will also be beneficial for you, as you will be able to express yourself in your mother tongue, which sometimes makes for more intimate and lasting friendships
No te rindas.
Like all things concerning parenting, raising a bilingual will involve plenty of patience on your part. Some days it might seem like your chiquito doesn’t want to say hola. However, just hearing you speak your native language will help your child learn it.
Yeah, sometimes your kids end up watching TV.
But you can make the best of it in those times in which you feel you are the worst parent on Earth because you need to do the laundry or some work and your kids end up watching TV. Streaming services like Netflix provide the opportunity to change the language settings to Spanish, so the next time they watch PJ Masks or Paw Patrol they can actually learn some new words. Because dialogue in cartoons tends to be very descriptive, this will help them associate images and palabras.
Attend cultural events in Spanish.
Many communities in the United States organize events in Spanish, such as playtime, mother’s and father’s groups and concerts. Attend as many as possible, show your kid that your language is awesome, something that will open doors rather than close them.
Jurado Ertll has been writing novels and children’s books for well over a
decade, all with the mission to inspire his fellow Central Americans about the possibilities that abound
for them in the U.S., and in the fields of public service and politics.
The author of multiple books and novels, including children’s illustrated book, “The Adventures of El Cipitio,” Randy Jurado Ertll has used literature as a means to help others stay woke.
“It’s important for us to be seen and heard through books that are bilingual. My goal is to make my literature accepted and to be recognized and valued because we haven’t been valued as a whole, a community,” Jurado Ertll says in an exclusive interview with mitú.
Born in Los Angeles to a Salvadoran mother in the 1970s, Jurado Ertll is a product of what can be accomplished with absolute grit and determination, despite being part of a group that has been on the margins of society—the children of deported immigrants.
When he was just eight months old, his mother was deported back to El Salvador and Jurado Ertll went to live with her until the age of five.
“People think it only happens under Trump, but it’s been happening forever but people forget,” Jurado Ertll says about deportations.
After his mom’s deportation, he tried making the most of living in a foreign land and soaked up as much as he could about the culture.
“That helped me and gave me an opportunity to learn first—hand the history and culture [of El Salvador]. It shaped my world view,” Jurado Ertll says.
Once he returned home for elementary school, he had to completely relearn the English language and says it was “kind of like a rebirth experience.”
He grew up in South Central Los Angeles during a time when there were few Latinos in his neighborhood. He was a student of the Los Angeles Unified School District until he was accepted into a program to study at a high school in Minnesota.
After high school, he returned to California to study at Occidental College and obtained his master’s degree from Azusa Pacific University. He then went on to be a communications director in Washington, D.C. for a congressional member and also wrote numerous opinion columns for newspapers across the country including the Los Angeles Times and USA Today.
Jurado Ertll published his first book in 2009.
His titles include “Hope in Times of Darkness” about his experience as a Salvadoran American, and a novel with surreal elements about a three-foot mythical creature titled “The Lives and Times of El Cipitio.”
“The Lives and Times of El Cipitio” is a surreal novel, I wanted to use lots of symbolism,” Jurado Ertll says. “I wanted to create an anti-hero that is evil but becomes good, a gangster that runs for mayor of LA then president, and the novel talks about how he evolves.”
When demand for his books increased, Jurado Ertll knew it was time to start bilingual books to inspire readers.
He then created “The Adventures of El Cipitio.”
“The Adventures of El Cipitio” is more of a feel-good, illustrated book.
“Kids need to feel good and proud, and see themselves in words and illustrations they can see themselves in,” he says.
Although Jurado Ertll has written several books to put the stories of more Central Americans like him to diversify bookshelves and tell the stories of all types of Latinos, one story he hasn’t quite written about in depth is his own deportation story.
“[The] story hasn’t been explored or told as much because it’s traumatizing—it distorts your sense of safety and belonging, and you can make it positive or negative,” Jurado Ertll says.
“It made me into a resilient person. There are other kids who have suffered more than I have. I wanted to empower people. If you born here, you can come back [after being deported.] Lots of people do that, but their stories are not told,” he continues.
Jurado Ertll has certainly chosen to take his experiences and make it a positive one.
Jurtado Ertll’s books are sold in Costco and Amazon, and he also continues to present his books at book fairs and events across the country.