Growing up in the United States, Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein noticed there weren't very many bilingual children's books, much less books that told the stories of the Latino culture. Once they had their own kids, they realized they weren't just going to fall from the sky.
“There was no books at that time that I really felt represented our Latino culture, our elements, our stories and celebrations,” Patty Rodriguez told Circa.
So Patty Rodriguez, a full-time producer for "On Air with Ryan Seacrest" in Los Angeles, California, and Ariana Stein, who had a full-time corporate job at the time, decided to start Lil' Libros, a bilingual Spanish and English children's book publisher. The first book was "Frida," which shows kids how to count in Spanish and English. They started three years ago with the hopes of selling a few hundred books now.
"We have sold over 180,000 books," says Rodriguez. "We are at over 100 independent bookstores. We are at Target. We are at Barnes and Noble."
There was no books at that time thatI felt really represented our Latino culture, our elements, our stories and celebrations.
The books also found their way into more than 14 museums nationwide. But it wasn't that easy. The two entrepreneurs said finding a publisher was difficult. They say one publishing company told them Latino parents "don't read to their kids." They wanted to prove that publisher wrong. Now, parents from as far as Australia have ordered the books, and the two founders use them with their own kids, too. Stein reads the books to her 4-year-old son.
"If he sees something that he recognizes, like a bird, he'll say, 'Oh, el pájaro,'" says Stein. "It feels really good because you know that you're doing something right."
They hope more parents, not just Spanish-speaking ones, find the value in exposing their kids to two languages.
We have sold over 180,000 books.
"The benefits of being bilingual in any language outweigh any of the myths surrounding bilingualism," says Rodriguez.
A 2012 review of multiple studies on bilingualism and its effect on cognitive development published in the National Library of Medicine found that children who speak more than one language have enhanced executive control. This means that in general, they're better at handling complex cognitive processes, like problem-solving, memory and thought.
The business partners and childhood friends have more titles in the works and even board games. They've come a long way from their days of trying to start a hot dog stand together, but they have their sights set even higher.
"The next step is to move to the older age group so that we can continue to grow with the child," says Stein. "So that they don't lose us and we don't lose them."
Rodriguez still works full-time as a producer, but Stein recently left her job to dedicate herself to Lil' Libros.
"We didn't have any publishing experience," recalls Stein. "We didn't know what an ISBN number was. We didn't know what we were doing. But we knew what we wanted to accomplish. And we knew we wanted to execute something this special."
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