Small Books With a Big Mission for Multilingual Kids

By Christina Elston

multilingual kids

Ariana Stein, left, and Patty Rodriguez created Lil Libros together to encourage parents to read to their babies – in English and Spanish – and share Latino culture. PHOTO COURTESY LIL LIBROS

Board books and babies just go together. But when L.A. moms Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein shopped for their little ones, they didn’t find any that reflected the Latino culture they grew up with. “We both knew there was something missing for our children,” says Rodriguez.

Best friends since childhood, the two worked together to create Lil Libros, a line of simple board books that teach letters, numbers, shapes and words in English and Spanish in a context Latino parents will recognize. Little ones can learn counting with artist Frida Khalo, colors with revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, and shapes with Aztec ruler Cuauhtémoc. Five other titles cover counting down, anatomy and general vocabulary.

The books, beautifully illustrated by Citlali Reyes, don’t tell whole stories, but instead are just “a seed” meant to spark a conversation between parent and child – in two languages. “Our goal is to introduce bilingualism and encourage parents to read to their children at the earliest age,” Stein says.

Rodriguez has two boys, 5-year-old Alexander and 11-month-old Oliver. Stein also has a son, 3-year-old Ethan. All enjoy reading Lil Libros. “Alexander has already come to me with ideas for books,” Rodriguez says. The two also come up with ideas in conversation about their own childhoods.

Since its 2014 launch, Lil Libros has enjoyed rapid success, and is now available in Target and Barnes & Noble stores, and on Amazon. Initially rejected by the publishing houses they approached, the two imagined it would take several years to get their creations into bookstores. “That shows the power of the community,” Rodriguez says.

She and Stein are currently busy filling the orders that have started to pour in (they promise they have plenty of inventory for the holidays!), and dreaming of the future. “Now we’re getting the respect from these big publishing houses that originally denied the idea,” Stein says. Upcoming plans include publishing new titles, and possibly inviting other authors and illustrators to join the Lil Libros family.

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