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An unlikely source of inspiration comes from a famous reader


Funny thing about writing a column: As you read this, you and I are having a conversation but when I write, I am alone, and my focus is extremely narrow. Once I send this off to the editor, the only other person I know who will read it, I am done. So, it is always a happy surprise when someone tells me that they read my column.

In June, I announced the month’s Talking Stories/Cuentos que hablan event, “The Lizard and the Sun/La Lagartija y el Sol” by Alma Flor Ada.

This author’s name was familiar to me because her children’s books impact CRA programs. “Ten Little Puppies/Diez Perritos” is one of the first books we share with parents during First Teacher/Primer Maestro. Others of her titles are chosen by children during Summer Book Buddies events.

Recently, I became acquainted with “My Name is Maria Isabel” and had just ordered copies for the upcoming Hatch Valley Literacy and Resource Fair on July 30 and 31 at Hatch Valley High School.

 I never imagined that Señora Ada might be reading me. My surprise was huge when she emailed a request to join us on Zoom for the story.

“I was delighted to read in a Las Cruces publication that ‘The Lizard and the Sun’ has been included in the Taking Stories project,” she wrote. “It certainly sounds like an excellent project and I appreciate having had ‘The Lizard and the Sun’ included. It has been one of my favorite books to share with children who get very involved in the story. The lizard is one of my many characters with whom I identify more closely because she was persistent in her search. I have faced many challenges and have learned that persistence is the key to success.”

Ada’s participation in Talking Stories on June 18 was a treat. She is a delightful storyteller in person. She shared glimpses into her life’s work, her childhood and her writing practice. But the most wonderful thing we learned was that she has dedicated her life to literacy, bilingual education and cross-cultural understanding.

“How lovely to know you share ‘Diez Perritos’ in the First Teacher/Primer Maestro program,” she added. “Recognizing that parents are indeed the first and most constant teachers, has been something (fellow author) Isabel Campoy and I have promoted for many years. Inviting parents to share picture books with their children has also been the core of much of my work. Thanks for doing something so meaningful for the parents and their children.”

The summer heat in El Paso inspired a story while Ada served as visiting professor at UTEP. “I was walking across campus and was so hot that I was sure I could see the smoke coming out of my mouth. By the time I got back to my room, I sat down and wrote about fire-breathing dragons that ate trucks and trains.”

Ada added a bit of her own family wisdom.

 “My extraordinary grandmother used to say, ‘We must free ourselves from, “What would they say? Liberarse del que diran.”’

“It is indeed a great freedom, not easily achieved, but rewarding. I have learned throughout my own life that when we can be authentically vulnerable, we help others to realize there is nothing to be ashamed of our limitations and frailty.”

“The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet/El gallo que no se callaba!” by Carmen Agra Deedy will be presented at 7 p.m. on July 23 via Zoom. For mor information email Jennifer Alvarado at talkingstories2021@gmail.com.

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

Rorie Measure