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  • laura rupenian

A bridge to early Spanish-reading and my vision unicorn

I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

I grew up in a multilingual environment, so, when my daughters were born here in California, it seemed logical to raise them bilingual.

When Bianca, my youngest, was learning her ABCs, I decided to teach her to read in English and Spanish at the same time. Reading skills transfer and get reinforced between languages. Hence, this was an obvious win-win.

With Bianca's kindergarten classroom activities and the wealth of materials available online, at the public library and in book stores, covering the English part was easy. When it came to Spanish, it was anything but. I was able to find attractive picture books, as well as beautiful chapter and story books. However, I had no luck finding beginner reading materials in Spanish to navigate the transition in between.

I kept looking for a children's book series in Spanish that would catch Bianca's attention and challenge her in a friendly way. Something beyond ABC sounds and vocabulary that would strengthen Spanish fluency as a whole. Alas, I soon realized my vision was somewhat of a Spanish early-reading unicorn.

Bianca kept making progress with her English-reading, but the Spanish front remained a frustration. Until one day when, almost as if going down memory lane, I pulled my first-grade Spanish notebook from the back of my home office closet...

I opened the notebook, and my five-year-old handwriting took me back to basics: ANA SALA LA MASA (“Ana salts the dough”).

A handful of letters combined in an assortment of accessible words.

I can do that!

First, I had to select the core sounds I would work with. What are the first sounds children begin to recognize in Spanish? I spent some time going through my first-grade notebook, some research articles and other 21st century materials. Soon I had casted the main characters of my project: A, E, L, M, N, S and T!

Next, it was time to mix and match.



I like it! I approved with a sense of accomplishment.

Finally, I had to put Ana and Mema in context. Most 21st century children don't knead or salt the dough, and neither would Ana or Mema. What do children universally do?

¡S-A-L-T-A-N! (They jump!)

I grabbed a blank sheet of paper, folded it a few times, cut out four strips and created a little stapled booklet.



Sitting at my usual coffee shop, I patiently put together a few booklets. And, little-by-little, Bianca's Spanish reading skills began to flourish. At first, her reading was choppy. Then it got some rhythm. And then, not long thereafter, she was reading with confidence and flow. Yay!

It was playful. It was bonding. It was fun!

It was what Bianca needed to bridge her Spanish-reading gap.

Over time, Bianca moved on to more complex readings, and my handmade booklets went to sleep in the back of my home office closet, together with my first grade notebook.

Those handmade booklets were the seed of Bianca's Spanish-reading. And, after many (many) years sleeping in the back of my home office closet, from that Spanish-reading unicorn, the dream of PequeLitos was born.

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Laura Rupenian
Laura Rupenian
Jul 13, 2023


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