By Verónica Carbajal, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
Storytelling. It doesn’t begin with speaking or writing. It begins with listening.
I learned the value of listening in my grandmother’s kitchen. My grandmother very much believed that exposing children to the uncensored truth, gently, foments both curiosity and resilience. Because of my quiet demeanor, she not only allowed, but invited me to sit in a corner and listen as she and her friends, family and neighbors vented, reminisced, laughed, and cried.
I firmly believe that all of my academic and professional achievements can be traced back to my grandmother’s kitchen. I don’t think anyone ever read to me. I started school later than most kids. I was a monolingual Spanish speaker. I was raised by a working class single mom. However, none of that set me back because I arrived at school equipped with a large vocabulary and a keen awareness of words and how they were spoken. These skills continue to serve me as a lawyer.
We know that kids are sponges, but not all kids are able to get what they need to succeed from their environment. Even if they get this information, they may have difficulties processing surrounding emotions. That’s where storytelling comes in. Storytelling is such a powerful tool that it is one of the five recommendations of the science-based learning campaign, the Boston Basics, which is trying to close the skills gap between socio-economic, racial, and ethnic groups.
The challenge is that storytelling is not easy or natural for a lot of us, including me. This is complicated by the fact that most books for toddlers and early readers do not have much text and parents and grandparents don’t always know how to use them as a springboard for talking about their own experiences and memories, much less as a learning tool.
I decided to write children’s books, in part, to help inspire those kinds of conversations. By including a lot of words in short stanzas, in both English and Spanish, and accompanying them with beautiful illustrations, I hope my books make storytelling easier, especially for working class families.
My first two children’s books are about my grandmother through the eyes of the family dog. At least 50 percent of the profits from each book will be donated to organizations working to improve the lives of children and animals who have been abandoned, exploited, or otherwise forgotten. To contribute to the crowdfunding campaign or pre-order books, please follow @munecasbooks on Instagram or visit http://igg.me/at/munecasbooks.
Verónica Carbajal grew up in the sister cities of El Paso, Texas and Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua. She graduated from Brown University with a double concentration in environmental studies and ethnic studies and from the University of Texas School of Law. She has been an attorney at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. since 2004. Her primary practice area is housing, including landlord/tenant, real estate, and housing discrimination law.
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