L4LL’s Weekend Book Club

We have a special treat for you this month! As part of our HHM: Festival of Books, we’ll be hosting a Weekend Book Club centered around four biographies from our Adult Reading List.

Three fabulous Latina bloggers – Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, Ezzy Guerrero-Languzzi, and Betty Velasco Galvan – will be sharing discussion questions about the books you see above on our L4LL Facebook page. If you’d like to follow along with our weekend book club, all you have to do is pick up the books (or download the eBooks) and read along. Below is our schedule so you know on what day you can find discussion questions about the book you’re reading.

Thursdays – My Beloved World
Fridays – Unbreakable
Saturdays – Latina Legacies
Sundays – Rita Moreno: A Memoir

The Weekend Book Club for these four books will run for four weekends during Hispanic Heritage Month, starting this week on Thursday, September 19th, and ending on Sunday, October 13. We hope you’ll join us for some great discussions!

HHM: Festival of Books Reading Lists for Adults and Children

Since we are, after all, strong supporters of Latino literature and our HHM: Festival of Books is centered around them, we are so happy to share with you all two great reading lists that focus on biographies and autobiographies of influential Hispanics. We chose some that have been recently released, and some that are older. We give special thanks to author Carmen Amato for her suggestions, too.

It was so hard to narrow our lists down to no more than 15 titles. But know that we do have additional books we’ll be sharing her over the course of the next four weeks.

The first reading list is for kids and features fantastic titles to biographical picture books for children ages 4 and up. From music great Tito Puente to sports legend Roberto Clemente, your child will enjoy all of these exceptional stories.

The second reading list for adults is divided into seven categories: Public Service & Activists, Musicians, Athletes, Political/Historical Figures, Journalists, Artists & Actors, and Anthologies. Four of these books will be featured this month as part of our Weekend Book Club, and we’ll share more information about that soon.

Both reading lists are full color for those who like to add a decorative touch to your refrigerator door, or office cork board. But this time, we’ve kept budgets in mind, so for those of you who would like to save your color ink, you’ll find a black-and-white version available, too!

You can download both lists for free here.

Welcome to L4LL’s Hispanic Heritage Month: Festival of Books

Dear friends, we are simply so excited to kick off our latest project, the Hispanic Heritage Month: Festival of Books! We have so many great things planned this month that you should check in here every day this week (and month!) for updates about new products, printables, and opportunities.

Unlike our Latino Children’s Summer Reading Program, the HHM: Festival of Books is geared for adults, too, with special content to be posted throughout the month, as well as a reading list of some of our favorite biographies for adults about some famous – and some not so well known – Hispanic Americans.

We will also feature weekly Google hangouts with authors of the hottest and critically-acclaimed biographies about some of the most fascinating Hispanic Americans who have contributed, or are contributing, to our country.

First up this Wednesday, September 18 from 12 noon to 12:30pm EST is award-winning Washington Post reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia and author of The Rise of Marco Rubio. Publisher’s Weekly writes:

“Readers in search of an in-depth and unbiased look at the young, dynamic Republican senator from Florida will be rewarded by this well-researched biography… the writing here is crisp and the research thorough.”

L4LL’s Viviana Hurtado interviews Roig-Franzia whose reporting gives insight into a person who is positioning himself to become our country’s first President of Latino descent.

Click on our Google+ page each Wednesday of Hispanic Heritage Month to access our Google hangout link and on the L4LL YouTube channel where it will be archived.

We hope you’ll join us!

Raising a Child Who Reads with Her Hands

Raising a Child Who Reads with Her Hands:

How Our Daughter Achieved Literacy Despite a Dual-Sensory Impairment

By Graciela Tiscareño-Sato

As the nation recalls the events of September 11th, 2001, I reflect on something entirely different. Twelve years ago this month, I watched the horror unfold while pregnant in a hospital bed trying to keep a baby barely at 24 weeks gestation, alive and inside me. Ten days later, a full 100 days before her New Year’s Eve due date, my daughter Milagro entered the world as a 25 ½ week preemie, weighing in at one pound and two ounces.

I’m the mother of a literate little girl who is blind, with a hearing impairment and an avid reader of Braille books. Her birth story and 137-day hospitalization is detailed here. My June blog post about her first experience as a public speaker (5th grade advancement) is here. In between those two days on the timeline are many stories, tears and laughs; here I’ll focus on how we helped her achieve literacy at home and at school.

Future View and Surrounding Myself

First, my husband and I looked for examples of hope for her future. I detailed what I did before her first birthday here. While she enjoyed infancy, we began to study the Braille code. We played a weird version of Scrabble together with a set of handmade wooden tiles from Mr. Arnold Dunn in St. Petersburg, Florida, each block with a Braille letter to memorize. Notice I used the word “code,” because to be literate in the language of Braille as a sighted person, you only need to learn which combination of six dots represents which letter, number, contraction, symbol (and later musical notes and values). There’s no need for my husband and me to read Braille with our fingertips; that’s a skill we left for Milagro to master.

Next, I met the mother of a college student who was blind. Elizabeth Phillips, who was shaken, blinded and nearly killed as an infant, was preparing to enter Stanford University. Her mother Mary Beth Phillips showed up in that Berkeley café one morning with an armful of baby board books from Seedlings. She said, “Get on their mailing list today, because you’re going to start reading to your daughter tonight with these books, just as you’d be doing if she wasn’t blind.” Read Elizabeth’s remarkable story here in People Magazine.

What I want parents of children with disabilities and special needs to take away is this: as soon as possible, put your personal grief on the shelf, go out for coffee with a parent who has walked the path you’ve been forced to take, and put your energy into your child’s literacy, education, and future. The sooner you do it, the better for your child. Sadly, I’ve met way too many teens who are blind and who still don’t have a cane because, in the words of one poor 17 year-old man, “My parents didn’t let me have a cane because then it would be really obvious to them and the world that I can’t see.” I’ve heard the same about parents not wanting their child to learn Braille. We on the other hand, couldn’t wait to each learn our third language and to prepare to be our daughter’s first Braille teachers.

Thirdly, I decided to educate myself through the writing of others and to always be surrounded by books for my daughter. The National Federation of the Blind publishes a magazine for parents and teachers called Future Reflections. It’s a must-have free resource I highly recommend to connect with like-minded, forward-thinking parents and educators. “Six Things you Can Do at home for your Blind Baby,” is one of my favorite articles that I’ve contributed to share activities and resources we relied on to prepare our daughter for preschool. An additional depository of Braille books, digital Braille books, and alternate formats for kids who are auditory learners (i.e. dyslexic but not receiving services in a stubborn school district) is Bookshare. They have over 200,000 books in accessible formats for children with print disabilities and sign-up for students in K-12 is free.


The true and legal responsibility, per federal and state laws, of teaching a child who is blind how to read, write, and meet educational standards, lies with the Local Education Agency, the school district. But without informed parental advocacy based on knowledge of your child’s federal and state educational rights, it’s not likely to happen. Here’s what I mean in an advocacy article published in Future Reflections magazine. It details (and names resources) how we became effective, forceful parent advocates to ensure our daughter would learn to read, write, and become as independent as possible considering her dual-sensory impairment. This article should be read by all parents raising children with physical or learning disabilities, preferably before the child is three, but ASAP.

Technology to write and read in Braille

The school district must provide adaptive technologies for your child when there are goals in the written Individual Education Plan (IEP) that require them as support. No goal? No technology. The technology that my daughter has used through the years I will simply list because that’s another set of articles I could write. There are YouTube videos you can watch if you’re curious: Mountbatten Brailler, the BrailleNote (her current favorite tool with refreshable Braille display that she’ll use into adulthood), a slate and stylus (the equivalent of pencil and paper) and her “Long Braille Cell” for learning new words as we travel around.

Braille is Beautiful

Those who know me have heard me say “Braille is Beautiful.” I’ve forgotten where I first heard that. Watching my daughter delight in reading a book or the latest issue of Spider magazine is like magic: bumpy dots pass under her trained, sensitive fingertips, her memory quickly accesses and processes what words, numbers, punctuation marks they represent. She reads aloud to me with voice inflections, emotion, and laughter – beautiful magic.

I want you to meet my daughter Milagro through video, because it’s unlikely that you’ve ever met a blind child (it’s an extremely low incidence disability), much less a child who is blind and literate. Here you go, mijita Milagro:

I trust you see the confident, happy, literate young lady she has become. In early September, she started middle school at the California School for the Blind, a terrific college-like campus just 23 minutes from our home. Her teacher of the visually impaired (TVI), a highly specialized educator who has trained in teaching Braille, happens to also be a lifeguard. My daughter is now swimming twice a week for PE, causing her two younger siblings to say, “No fair, I wish I was blind.” Sigh…

Even though my daughter is now a commuter student at the age of 11, taking a cab with two other students in the area to their campus in the next city, I’m ready for this new phase. I also know she’s ready, because every day this summer she kept saying, “I’m so excited for the California School for the Blind.”

I’m excited to see how much more she will learn in the years ahead. My husband and I take credit for the decision we made years ago to insist that her federally-guaranteed educational rights be enforced. We ensured that every educator on her huge IEP team had the highest expectations of her and that those who didn’t were removed. It’s been an extraordinarily challenging twelve years, but Milagro’s love of reading and her voracious appetite for writing on her BrailleNote, is truly the most gratifying reward.


Graciela is a military veteran and Chief Creative Officer of San Francisco area publishing and multicultural marketing firm Gracefully Global Group LLC that she founded in 2010. She’s a publisher and public speaker by day, mother of three always and blogger and business owner by night. In her pre-motherhood life, Graciela graduated from U.C. Berkeley and traveled the world as an aircraft navigator onboard the U.S. Air Force KC-135 refueling tankers. Her military aviation career is the basis of her first bilingual children’s book (in a planned series) titled Good Night Captain Mama / Buenas Noches Capitán Mamá. Read her full bio here.

L4LL’s Hispanic Heritage Month: Festival of Books

We are so excited to announce that on the heels of the successful pilot of our Latino children’s summer reading program, we are happy to honor Latino contributions to the U.S. in history, politics, public service, the arts, and sports with the “L4LL Hispanic Heritage Month: Festival of Books.” This month-long event will feature two original and free reading lists made up of autobiographies and biographies–one for adults and one for children in kindergarten through 4th grade.

L4LL Hispanic Heritage Month: Festival of Books recognizes that Hispanics are natives to technology. So our free reading-centered program will promote basic literacy skills with downloadable reading lists and daily website content. To teach vocabulary development and measure comprehension, our Festival of Books spotlights interactive activities such as a virtual book club, Google hangouts on the L4LL YouTube channel, author interviews and reader video book reports.

Families and educators who would like to teach or learn more about Latino contributions to the U.S. can buy one of our original and pedagogically designed L4LL Hispanic Heritage Month: Festival of Books Reading Kits. The kits introduce children to historical figures — such as civil rights activists Cesar Chávez and Dolores Huerta, salsa queen Celia Cruz, and librarian and literacy advocate Pura Belpré — through biographies and printables activities. The kits are designed for children in kindergarten through the 4th grade.

This time, both children and adults will have the opportunity to submit their own video book reports and enter their families for a chance to win a Chromebook or Nexus 7 tablet, as well as participate in a Twitter party and Google hangout for additional giveaways.

WHEN/WHERE: L4LL Hispanic Heritage Month: Festival of Books is a month-long event beginning Sunday, September 15 through Tuesday, October 15, 2013. Updates and additional information will be posted on our website, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

THANK YOU: This innovative program that aims to help Latinos raise literacy levels while learning about Hispanic contributions to our country is made possible thanks to the support of our sponsors: Mamiverse, LatinaMom.Me, Bebé Lanugo, Mommy Maestra, The Wise Latina Club, and is powered by Google.

For sponsorship opportunities and media interviews, please email Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D. at viviana@latinas4latinolit.org