Things That Matter

Two Sisters Are Using Their Black Girl Magic And Facebook Live To Read Stories To Children With Working Parents

For Latinos, the power of storytelling has a unique value. For us, stories are often used to instill a greater sense of culture and understanding of our current circumstances. Stories are told not just around the table at dinner, they’re told in car rides, during lectures, in the kitchen to supplement a recipe. But nothing quite stands the test of time as the stories told at our bedsides while we’re children. Delaware Sisters Zaria, 13, and Hailey Willard,8, know the power of this tradition well and are using the practice of reading books to help children that are younger than themselves.

The two sisters love books and reading so much that they read bedtime stories to American children on Facebook live, every night.

The Willard sisters’ primary goal is to pick out books with characters that look like them.

                                                                   @ZariaxHailey/Instagram

Once every Sunday,  the two sisters, whose love for literacy was passed on to them by their mom, Victoria, head off to their local Dover, Delaware library to pick out a week’s worth of books for their growing audience of young children online. Of course, in an age where online bullying is not only rampant but severe, their mother had hesitations. Still, the sisters were able to convince her that reading and streaming live would be worth it.

For their part, the sisters’ main goal is reaching children whose parents might not have time to read to their children at night. In a post to their Facebook page, the two girls state that “Parents sometimes work late or are too tired for stories. We are not only helping children, we are giving parents a nice break after a long day of work.”

Their love for reading is not uncommon among African American women. According to a Pew Research study, College-educated Black women in the US are the most likely people to read. They even read a bit more than educated white women. The same study, which was originally focused on the types of media formats that people read, also found that black women read more of any type of media, women from all backgrounds read more than men, and people who went to college read more than those who didn’t.

                                                              @brownbookshelf/Twitter

According to reports, African American women and girls are leading the way when it comes to reading and making changes for literacy and representation in literature.

In January 2018, Marley Dias, organizer of the #1000blackgirlbooks campaign, published her first book Marley Dias Gets It Done: So Can You, a book about social justice activism for kids. Dias, fourteen, won Smithsonian Magazine’s American Ingenuity Award in the Youth category in 2017, became known for her #1000blackgirlbooks campaign which she launched in 2015 when she was in sixth grade. The campaign brought attention to the startling lack of representation in children’s literature, to which children’s book literature agents have since responded.

                                                                 @ZariaxHailey/Instagram

This year its Delaware sisters, Zaria and Hailey, who have taken up the campaign for spreading a love for books, reading, learning, helping others, and representation. And Twitter users agree. Several gave well-deserved props to Zaria and Hailey in response to David Muir’s July 17, ABC news feature on them and their literacy project.

This Twitter user congratulated Zaria and Hailey’s parents.

https://twitter.com/KennyHargrove1/status/1151648204942925825

“That’s Dope as hell I know there parents are proud of them and shout out to there parents for raising some Beautiful young ladies..!” said @KennyHargrove1.

Esa señora agrees that the two are changing the world

https://twitter.com/angelimaquilim1/status/1151716513537298432

“That is so precious! Thank you girls for what you do! You’re changing the world.”

Another Twitter user found what Zaria and Hailey are doing “inspiring.”

https://twitter.com/TDKdweller/status/1151644941702979584

“Very inspiring, keep up the good work girls.”

What are Zaria and Hailey doing next? Continuing their work on a children’s book series and moving their storytime from 8:30 to 8:00 PM once school starts up again after summer.

In their own words, “We have huge plans for our ventures and we hope you follow along and share with your network of people. We are brown girls who read!!”

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ipstori Creator, Ruth Resendiz, Wants People To Love Reading Again

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ipstori Creator, Ruth Resendiz, Wants People To Love Reading Again

When the pandemic hit, the Mexican book market saw print sales decline within the first half of February. By April it had plummeted 88.2 percent.

For former professor, Ruth Resendiz, the Mexican publishing crisis feels personal. The brains behind ipstori, Resendiz is on a mission to get people reading again.

“It was about 15 years ago that you started to see that [students] were not reading,” she told mitú.

In 2019 Mexico Daily News reported a noticeable decrease in reading practices following a recent survey. Results concluded that nearly half of respondents didn’t have time to read, while 21.7 percent showed no interest in reading.

Featured by Apple for Women’s History Month, Resendiz wants new readers to understand the power literature can offer. “There are a lot of writers that say literature can give you a sense of immortality,” she said.

ipstori is Resendiz’s love story to reading that started at a young age.

Courtesy of Apple

Resendiz’s fascination with literature began when she was eight after contracting the measles. Bedridden for two weeks the young girl began reading “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott.

“I knew nothing about the United States and suddenly I was immersed in another family, in another era, in another culture, and that changed my life forever,” she said.

Resendiz continued saying: “With literature, you’re allowed to be unfaithful, you’re allowed to be in a lot of people’s arms.”

Resendiz created ipstori later in life with no tech experience.

Courtesy of Apple

Becoming an entrepreneur at 52, Resendiz launched ipstori in October 2019. With no prior tech experience she was passionate about getting stories into the hands of people everywhere. Despite facing challenges as a middle-aged woman in the field, Resendiz got help from her tech savvy children turning her solo passion into a family affair.

Considered “a Spotify for literature,” the app contains fictional short stories in genres ranging from romance to thrillers. Available on the App Store, each story has a reading time of one, three, five, or seven minutes.

One of Resendiz’s main focuses with ipstori is to highlight the emotional depth of a narrative. With a generation living on smartphones, Resendiz hopes this method of engagement sparks a change of attitude.

ipstori gives readers thousands of stories to read at any time.

Courtesy of Apple

As attention spans have declined with the rise of social media, Resendiz anticipates that reading short stories would eventually allow readers to adapt to longer novels.

For me, a success story would be that someone that started with ipstori, [their] next stage is going to a library or to Kindle or buy a whole book,” she stated. “We don’t want to compete with books. We just want to give you this kind of starting ritual.”

During the pandemic, 71 percent of the Mexican population was on the internet. Thanks to the digital market, e-books and audiobooks are helping print bookstores regain sales, but not by much.

Luckily, more than 70,000 users engaged with ipstori reading ‘diversidad’ and ‘erotic’ genres that especially gained traction during the pandemic.

“When you’re surrounded by death in every sense, not just corporal death, but [the] death of a lot of things you need to control it with life,” Resendiz observes. “And what is more lively than [the] erotic?”

With over 200 authors writing for ipstori from all over Latin America, Resendiz is expanding the app’s range to include “tiny audibles” read by professional theater actors.

While the publishing crisis remains, Resendiz wants her app to “be that bridge between the creators and the possible readers.”

Reading, she says, is “the difference between being alive and just surviving.”

“We are made by stories, the stories of our parents, and the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves,” Resendiz says.

The App Store featured ipstori for Women’s History Month.

READ: Many Native Languages Are Dying Off But Here’s How Indigenous Millennials Are Using Tech To Save Them

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These Long-Time Best Friends Just Found Out They’re Biological Sisters

Things That Matter

These Long-Time Best Friends Just Found Out They’re Biological Sisters

Photo via Cassandra Raquel Madison/Facebook

We’ve all had those friends that are so close to us that they feel like they’re family. Well, in the case of these of two Connecticut women who had the same feeling, that ended up being the case.

Best friends Julia Tinetti and Cassandra Madison learned that they were biological sisters, adopted from the Dominican Republic.

The story is stranger than fiction. Julia and Madison met in 2013, when they both worked at a bar called The Russian Lady in New Haven, Connecticut. The women immediately bonded when they discovered that they both had tattoos of the Dominican Republic’s flag.

Cassandra rehashed the meeting via a Facebook post: “Julia notices the Dominican flag on my arm and makes a comment about how she’s Dominican too BUT she’s adopted from there. I stop her in her tracks and tell her I’m adopted from there too.”

“After that moment, we were so tight,” Julia told Good Morning America. “We started hanging out. We would go out for drinks, for dinner. We started dressing alike.”

Apparently, Cassandra felt the same way. “I thought she was cool,” Cassandra said to GMA. “We just kind of hit it off right away. It was very natural.”

According to them, coworkers were always telling them that they looked like sisters. But when the two of them cross-referenced their birth certificate, their information didn’t add up.

“Papers said we were from two different cities [with] different last names,” Julia explained. “And, our mothers’ names on our paperwork were different.” But the two women believed they were somehow connected–they just didn’t know how.

The mystery finally began to unravel after Cassandra took a 23andMe DNA test.

Through 23andMe’s genetic database, Cassandra tracked down her biological family in the Dominican Republic through a first cousin. She then traveled to the DR where she met her bio-family for the first time–an incredibly emotionally experience. While Cassandra’s bio-father was still alive, her bio-mother had passed away in 2015 from a heart attack.

Years later, Cassandra finally pressed her bio-father on whether or not he had put up another child for adoption. While at first he was hesitant to talk about the painful memory, he finally admitted that he had, indeed, put another child up for adoption years ago.

It was then that Cassandra finally urged Julia to take a DNA test so they could finally put their questions to rest.

The results came back on January 28th, 2021 and finally confirmed what they had long suspected: they were biological sisters.

The entire ordeal has been both thrilling, joyful, and emotionally taxing for the women. At times, it has even been bittersweet, considering the trauma their biological family endured in the past.

“On top of the DR being a very poor country, [our family] couldn’t take care of us,” Julia explained. “I was [born] 17 months later and they weren’t ready.”

All in all, Julia summed up how she feels about the situation in a very direct way: “This is the type of thing you see on TV.”

We couldn’t agree more!

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