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Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Chatting about books with Sonia Manzano

This has been one of those will this day ever be over? days. It started out early--6:30 AM--when Thomas woke up, and it didn't end until 7:00 PM, when Thomas went to sleep. Mike had to work late so today was an all-Mommy day. My head hurts. Thomas's fever last week was certainly related to the fact he now has two new cuspids on top, and I can only hope his constant Mr. Crankypants behavior this week is because he's cutting the bottom two.

All I know for sure is that his favorite word is no, but that he prefers to pronounce it nnnnooooooooo. That combined with his Jekyll and Hyde personality (He wants to be picked up. No! He wants to be put down. No! Pick him up. No! It's really his diaper that needs to be changed, but! He doesn't want his diaper changed! Nnnnooooooo!!!) makes me very happy that right now he's sleeping like an angel if an angel sleeps on his stomach with his butt in the air and his arms curled underneath his chest.

This cup of milky, sugary hot tea that I'm drinking is yummy.

My day also included a fun-filled Wednesday Field Trip to the Oakland Zoo. Flamingos! Giraffes! Trains! And Emily asking repeatedly, "What's that, Mommy? What's that, Mommy?" which made me happy.

Excited. I think.

Back to the story at hand... This morning I was happy to be a part of a conference call with an organization called First Book. "First Book is a national nonprofit organization with a single mission: to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books."

For their latest campaign featuring Sonia Manzano (aka: Maria) from Sesame Street, they're asking bloggers to help spread the word about their mission and their CheeriosĀ® Spoonfuls of StoriesĀ® partnership and program.

So precisely at 10:00 AM my time, 1:00 PM New York time, I dialed the number and hoped like hell that the bowls of cheerios and full juice cups and stash of washable markers that I had given the kids was going to be enough to keep them quiet while I pretended to be important. Conference calls. I've actually been on several of them lately and they're nightmares. Kids and mommies on important phone calls just don't mix.

This call was automatically muted (Thank God!) so I got to listen and learn about the fact that the single factor in determining if a child will be a reader is the number of books in a child's home, and Sonia Manzano and Kyle Zimmer, the president of First Book, didn't have to hear Thomas go, "nnnnooooooooo," like he did on more than one occasion during the thirty minute call.

I also learned that First Book has distributed 43 million books to children in the years it has been doing this. Wow! That impressed me.

After a brief introduction, Kyle Zimmer handed over the call to Sonia, who seemed every bit as warm and wonderful as her character on Sesame Street. She spoke about how she learned to read in school with the Dick and Jane books, but that she was on the subway when she realized that she could read the ads and that reading was something you could do outside of school.

Sonia admits that they didn't have books in her home when she was growing up, but she remembers a teacher reading Charlotte's Web to the class and also her own reading of Fifteen by Beverly Cleary. She thinks reading brings people together, and that wanting to read as a kid is what inspired her to be a writer today.

Sonia has written a children's book titled No Dogs Allowed, and No Dogs Allowed -- The Musical is set to open in Miami in June. Sonia has info about this on her blog. She also has a new book coming out in May. It's still untitled, but she said that it is based on a story from her life. When she was little, she went to visit an aunt who was about to have a baby. While Maria was with her, she imagined herself as a superhero who would be the one to alert the neighborhood to the new baby. Of course, Maria went home for dinner and the baby didn't come that day, but it sounds like a great story that should certainly appeal to kids.

After she spoke for a bit, they took questions from the conference call participants, and the first blogger who asked a question was none other than Susie Sunshine from The Underpaid Kept Woman! She asked why it was that the original actors are all still on Sesame Street. Sonia said that the actors have all stayed with the show because they have great chemistry, truly care for each other, and they have been allowed to grow and age with the show.

Another caller asked about how to educate children to diversity. Sonia suggested that parents introduce things multicultural in their children's lives. For example, books, art, posters, people, sports figures, actors, etc.

An educator wanted to know how you can encourage parents who don't themselves read to read to their kids instead of putting them in front of the TV. Sonia thought they might respond to the suggestion they tell oral stories. They also may need to be introduced to age-appropriate books. She suggested a book One Minute Fairy Tales.

Another caller (I think this was another blogger, but I'm not certain) asked if Sonia raised her daughter bilingual. Sonia replied that yes, she tried, but that it was hard. The Spanish speaking people in her life (mom, nanny) would tend to speak English to her daughter, even when she told them to speak Spanish. She suggested immersion school programs, taking your child on vacation to a Spanish speaking country, and buying books in Spanish.

We ended the call with Sonia reiterating that her favorite first book was Charlotte's Web. She knew that if Charlotte could deal with whiny Wilbur, she could deal with anything. (Hey, that's exactly how I feel about dealing with whiny Thomas!) If you're interested, a podcast of the call is available on the First Book blog.

I wish my day were over now, but it isn't. I have to go work on the newsletter for my Mothers Club. Yes, it's that time of the month again. But let me just tell you that I have used the Scooba (Chris, you've got to get one!) and it's revolutionary. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow, I promise.

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