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Local author leads the way to literacy for Latino children

Children's author wrote a book based on the Disney movie "Coco"
Posted at 2:38 PM, Feb 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-20 22:24:48-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — Literacy is a vital part of a child’s overall development. The reason we celebrate “love of reading” in the month of February.
One Tucson award-winning author has touched the lives of many Latino children.

She’s Roni Capin-Rivera Ashford. And she gained a lot of attention after writing a book for Disney based on the animated movie – "Coco".

My Nana’s Remedies or Los Remedios de mi Nana is the bilingual book that launched her career as a children’s author.
A former elementary school teacher, Roni spends time reading it to students in Southern Arizona and all over the world.

"My nanas remedies took me several years and several attempts. I teach children to never give up," she says.
Roni didn’t -- give up.
Her book was rejected by publishers 64 times before one took a chance on her.
"They wanted to reach the Latino culture in the Southwest," she said.

The stories – the rhymes -- that fill the pages resonate well with Hispanics.
Especially a rhyme that's a Spanish saying she grew up with in Nogales.

"'Sana, Sana, colita de rana. Si no sanas hoy, sanaraz manana.' (Translation: Heal, heal, tail of a little frog. If you don't heal today, you will tomorrow.) That’s a magical phrase for so many people. I shared this book in Uruguay to a group of third graders and they all knew that saying too," she said.

The reaction of the students is similar, she said, no matter where she goes. "They totally identify with the stories -- elated to know there are people out there that understand their culture," she said.
But the bilingual book doesn’t just touch young hearts. She shared the reaction of one grown man who read "My Nana’s Remedies". "He started to cry and he said it reminded him of his nana. That just melted my heart," she said.

So Roni kept writing. Her 3rd book, "My Tata’s Remedies", won national and international awards, which got the attention of Disney.
They asked her to write a children’s book based on the main character of the animated movie "Coco".
She jumped at the chance and wrote "Miquel and the Amazing Alebrijes".
"I feel it’s important to go back to the basics. And really tap into the children at the level where they feel like that are included – where we emphasize diversity and inclusivity. I think that’s just so important," she said.

The children don’t just hear Roni’s stories, they also experience it. "We bring fresh herbs – like from "My Nana’s Remedies" and "My Tata’s Remedies". And we bring teas and empanadas. We bring the toys and noise makers," she said.

And the students just soak it up. "They’re hungry for it. And the children who don’t know about it are given an opportunity to learn and they ask questions and they get excited about learning all of these things," she said.

Her main message --- what she wants every child to learn ----- is that the world is more the same than different.
"We all have the same heart. We all have the same desires of love and family and being nurtured and feeling safe. If we can connect and learn from each other it’s really a beautiful thing and we see that happening when we go out and work at schools," she said.