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Bilingual stories bring our community together


When Alma Flor Ada first read the ancient Aztec story, “The Lizard and the Sun,” “It was not more than a paragraph in a reading textbook,” she remembers. But the tenacity of the lizard appealed to her then and stayed with her years later when grown-up author Ada began writing for children.
In her book, “The Lizard and the Sun/La Lagartija y el Sol,” Ada and illustrator Felipe Davalos bring the lush wilderness and the vibrant Aztec city of Tenochtitlán to life.
In this retelling of a traditional Mexican folktale, the sun has disappeared for many days, and everyone is worried. All the animals search for the sun with no results. Eventually all but one of them quits looking. Only the tenacious little lizard continues the search.
Eventually she sees the glow of the sun coming from inside a rock. The little lizard bravely travels to the great city to tell the emperor. Together, they try to convince the sun to wake up and come out of hiding. The emperor finally coaxes the sun back into the sky with the promise of beautiful music and colorful dancing in the plaza in front of the highest pyramid. In that way, life, laughter and growth are restored.
Actor and musician, Jonathan Contreras, will perform “The Lizard and the Sun/ La Lagartija y el Sol” in both Spanish and English at 7 p.m. on June 18 in a Zoom room.
“The Lizard and the Sun” is the fifth event in the Talking Stories series developed by the Children’s Reading Alliance with help from the New Mexico Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Las Cruces Bulletin. Each month a different story provides rich literature and in-depth discussion for families. The stories are selected for their inter-generational appeal and significant content to encourage thoughtful communication across cultures.
Every presentation is designed to create space for families of different backgrounds and home languages to come together through literature.

Besides introducing young readers to quality children’s literature, we are building a platform for interesting parent/child discussions no matter which language is spoken at home.
According to the Latino Family Literacy Project, “No matter which language the parent speaks, or the child speaks, reading at home is crucial to ensure that kids develop a love of reading and for learning new vocabulary and concepts. A reading routine at home should include sharing stories and talking together. In one family, there can be two languages in the home. Some parents speak Spanish while their kids are learning English at school. A simple solution is to share bilingual books. Parents can read in Spanish with their kids while their kids might enjoy reading in English. Together, they are learning new vocabulary and can have interesting conversations about what they read.”
In July, our story will be “The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet!” by Carmen Agra Deedy. This book is written in English with some Spanish. Actor/singer Cassandra Reveles will present the story in both languages.
Upcoming bilingual titles in the Talking Stories lineup include: “Don’t Say a Word, Mama/No Digas Nada, Mama” by Joe Hayes in August; “The Festival of Bones/El Festival de las Calaveras” by Luis San Vicente in October; and “A Spoon for Every Bite/Una Cuchara Para Cada Bocado” by Joe Hayes in November.

For more information, email Jennifer Alvarado at talkingstories2021@gmail.com.

Children’s Reading Alliance President Emeritus Rorie Measure is artistic director of “Talking Stories/Cuentos que hablan.”

Rorie Measure