Recently, I had the great pleasure of reading "Paco and the Giant Chile Plant ~ Paco y la planta de chile gigante" for the first time to an all Latino audience! It took place at the Chamblee Library and was part of the Nuestra Vida program hosted by Univision 34 here in Atlanta. It was also the first time I truly tested my new Spanish skills.
I've been taking lessons at the Latin American Association for over a year now, and the teachers, staff, and friends I have made there have become such an enormous part of my life, I actually dedicated Paco to them (and my husband of course).
But even with all my studying, I am nowhere near fluent, so I was very nervous. However, as usual with events like this, it quickly becomes all about the kids and their families and I leave my nerves behind.
And it was about families. Nuestra Vida had become a big event in the lives of the families attending, a day to spend time together (not just an excuse to keep the kids busy).
They all loved Paco and laughed in all the right places - it's actually a really fun book to read aloud what with all the different characters and exclamations. They "oohed" over my demonstration drawing . . . or maybe I should say "mooed" - I chose to draw the cow which I have named Rosebud. And they were incredibly appreciative when we gave away the drawing and a copy of Paco. Here I am with the family that won the book - they were such sweet people and their oldest daughter was quite the budding artista.
And even though most of the kids' first language was English, their parents' first language was Spanish, so I ended up speaking a lot of it. They were very patient with me, and I only received the "what the heck are you talking about" look twice, so I thought I did alright.
The most exciting thing about the event was at the end. We handed out coloring pages and word find puzzles ("Sopa de palabras"). I about cried when I looked up from all the kids busy coloring to see all their parents concentrating on the word find puzzle. I made it bilingual and had never thought of it as an actual literacy tool, but there it was. Wow.
(Download the coloring pages and word find puzzles yourself from my Paco activity page.)
I think we sometimes forget what a rich mix of people it takes to make America - the America I am so proud of. Especially in a city the size of Atlanta, there are so many different cultures and backgrounds, I am thrilled to be tapped into one small portion of that mix - it makes my city and my life so much more meaningful and interesting. And I hope, in my little way, that by sharing my love for the diversity and different ideas people bring to our country that they feel just a little bit more welcome.
Why? Because, I come from immigrants too. Granted, from way back, as does my husband (3rd generation Polish), and most Americans for that matter. But so many people were and are so desperate to fit it, and move beyond societal prejudices, they slough off their cultures when they arrive. My maiden name is Oberholtzer (the "O." in my name). It's an incredibly ethnic name with NO history or tradition attached (beyond a town in Bavaria where we think the name was derived). I so wish my family had held onto our culture. It was a part of my identity to which I now have no connection. Of course, I'm also part English, Scottish, maybe a bit Cherokee, and who knows what else. But again, with no real connections. How sad.
I hope that by showing my appreciation for the cultures coming into our country now, people will remain proud of them and realize what a treasure they bring, and keep them. We are a melting pot after all, and I find melting pots much, much more interesting than the alternative.
OFF SOAP BOX. You may now return to your regularly scheduled blog...