I was born and raised in La Paz, Bolivia and moved to the United States to attend college at the age of 19. During my 20s, when thinking about one day having a family, the possibility of my children not speaking Spanish never crossed my mind. I assumed that because I spoke Spanish my kids would too.
Years later, married to a Kansas native, and with my first child having just turned three, I had an experience that forever changed my assumptions about how easy it would be to raise my child bilingual. A Saturday morning in 2012, I decided to call my Dad back home to share with him all the milestones that my son was accomplishing, from how fast he was growing, and how much he was talking, to what was his favorite cartoon character. My dad was so excited to hear the news and asked me to put my son on the phone so he could talk to him. So I did...Except my Dad doesn’t speak any English and my son only knew a few words in Spanish. For the next 20 min, I had to translate every single word during the conversation. Until then, the language that my husband and I used around the house was mostly English and I wasn’t making a conscious effort to speak to my son in Spanish. I assumed he would learn at some point, or that somehow he would just know it because I knew it. Every once in a while I would sprinkle in some Spanish words here and there when talking to him but not in any systematic way.
Aside from the fact that translating Spanish to English and vice-versa is inefficient, I realized that morning that if my son didn’t speak or understand Spanish, there was much more than my son would be losing than simply the time spent during translations. I was afraid he would lose the chance of having a strong relationship with my Dad, the rest of my family in Latin America, and most importantly the chance to experiencing the richness of my culture the way I experienced it.
Today I understand that while my kids are a blend of two cultures, giving them the ability to read and speak in Spanish goes beyond simply decoding or building words in another language. It’s a gift that opens the door for them to experience the intangibles of my culture. From understanding things like why people kiss each other when greeting friends and family, to why abuelitas watch telenovelas and get so attached to the characters in them or why romantic songs -sappy, as my husband calls them- are so popular in Hispanic speaking countries....maybe explaining why latinos are so apasionados.
While things are still not perfect and we continuously strive to keep the Spanish language alive in our household, I decided to do something that could also help other families going through the same journey. In 2017, I founded Becko Books with the mission to help families like mine to make the process of raising bilingual kids simpler.
I decided to focus on literature because I think it’s one of the best ways to grow a child’s vocabulary since books generally contain many more low-frequency words than the spoken language.
I believe that with quality resources, guidance and tips on how to make biliteracy a simpler process we all win. We grow a stronger Hispanic community, that can continue building strong relationships with abuelitos, keep greeting family and friends with besos and continue singing sappy songs to our heart's content.
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