Meet a Local Author – “Where we can get to know California authors and illustrators of books for children and teens.”
Author Matilde Hollander was kind enough to do an interview by email.
Hollander, Matilde. My Five Senses: Second Edition. Photos by Israel Gonzalez. Bilingual Books, 2015. 38p. $14.99. ISBN 978-0-692-35851-1.
Your new book, My Five Senses: Second Edition, (Bilingual Books, 2015, $14.99, 978-0-692-35851-1), is not just bilingual. Along with English and Spanish, there are seven other languages on each page! What inspired you to write this book?
My inspiration was in base that we live in a very diverse community, as formal bilingual teacher from South America, Chile, I see a great need for Foreign Languages; it should truly begin at an early age. According to research, the best time to learn a foreign language is when children are very young. Moreover, when foreign parents come to this country for the first time and want to help their children with their literacy and they get to see their very own language they feel that everything is more relevant to them and their daily-school life, parents learn the English language and they are able and proud to maintain their “very own primary language.”
How did you choose which languages to feature?
I was choosing languages according to the demographics. I am constantly visiting schools and sometimes I work as an interpreter and a translator for the districts. Besides that, some friends were motivating me to serve better the community by giving me hints like, “I should make an impact” by communicating with parents and children.
I must also add that I created and I am able to provide, bilingual materials like a useful Flip Book for parents, teachers, and children. Award winner tool in the level of communication. I was actually lucky to get small grant from OLC=Oakland Literacy Coalition, (seed grant), which is now (Flip Book) in various languages. Doing good is my motto.
My Five Senses is an informational book for preschool through second grade, describing the five senses, which is a big part of the science curriculum for primary graders. How can we foster the love of science in young children?
We can foster the love for science by applying “hands in activities.” I find that when children become engaged they are using their FIVE SENSES. We as teachers must do “engagement at all time” = See say and do = Ver , decirlo y hacerlo.
When I get to read my book, I actually demonstrate the fact; I get to show large posters with nose, mouth, ears, hands, eyes. I also say to the students:
“We smell the cinnamon with the nose. We touch our two hands, one hand touches the other, hands are for helping and greeting,” (tactile demonstration aspect). I use Curious George, a large doll, to demonstrate.
“We see the world, friends, teachers, environment – eyes, vision. We taste food by using our mouth. We listen to the sounds of the trains, the music, the story time with our ears. The Five Senses are very very important in our life.”
Full color photographs by Israel Gonzalez illustrate your book. Did you collaborate on this project? Or where the photos chosen after you wrote the text?
Full color pictures were taken after we realized that drawing pictures representing diversity is not really reflected in the drawing. It is more real and pretty to actually have real pictures of my students in it. To me it represents what we really are. Everyone should have access to multicultural representation – in books especially. It brings joy and happiness. It is a picture of what we actually are! The text was written, then we applied the pictures.
You are a Montessori teacher; do you find young children have an ease in learning a new language?
The children I normally teach are always ready to learn, believe or not! They are waiting for me, sitting in a circle and sometimes singing bilingual songs such as “Buenos Dias amigos” = Good morning my friends. I teach 1/2 hour per class. Children get to participate “fully.” They are engaged at all times. I use TPR = Total Physical Response methodology. The use of the Five SENSES. It is easy because parents want their children to be exposed to “Foreign Languages” at an Early Age, especially in private schools. Some of my students speak three or four languages. They are from Europe, or the Middle East, Centro America etc.
My classes begin at two-years-old level. It is truly fun for them and also for me. Moreover the teachers are observing me at all times and learning as well.
Foreign language in the United States doesn’t usually begin until children get to middle school. This is wrong, children should be exposed to foreign languages at a very early age.
What were some of your favorite books as a child?
As a child my father used to read to us, Cinderella, The Cat with Red Boots, Pinocchio, Snow White, and other classic stories like The Prince and the Beggar and El Capitan- the captain, stories of a wonderful dog. We were five children, always listening to his stories while my mother was preparing the meals or sewing.
Do you visit schools and public libraries to talk to kids about your books? Tell us about some of your presentations for libraries and schools.
I visit schools and they want me with open arms! (No funding for presentations or books).
I do bilingual reading, especially Wednesdays, in which teachers meet and discuss curriculum and children must leave school a little early. Sometimes parents take a longer time in picking them up. Most of my work is done as a volunteer.
My focus is kindergarten to third grade. That is the specific time that children in the United States must learn to read and write. However some children speak more than one language.
Parents have to authorize and give a written permission for children to stay after school for an extra bilingual reading time, about one hour. Ceramics in Berkeley carry my book, also Books Unlimited in Berkeley.
The libraries are my biggest friend, they are constantly welcoming me to present my books and my bilingual materials to children and parents. For example, El Cerrito Library had me for the last three years as a presenter, we did thematic work and it was indeed a great job!
We did it once a month, the Friends of the Library and a grant written from Target made it possible. They were generous enough to pay for books for children and presentations, and it was a successful experience. After the third year, the youth librarian was asked to do a survey with one of the schools and parents coming to the library and now the focus is helping children with their homework. Parents are too busy working to help their children with homework. However, many of them they are still asking for Bilingual reading during Saturday day.
I heard that you did a story reading with some of the Golden State Warriors players. What was that like?
Yes, I did a Volunteer week assignment through the Oakland Literacy Coalition, story time during Latino week at various schools at Oakland district, every classroom got my FIVE SENSES book, donated. I must say, The Golden State Warriors were terrific partners. They invited students to read at the front of the class. We enjoyed every minute. We have lots of fun reading together from my book! I felt so happy and proud of serving those children, who are eager to learn. I just now hope we can do it again!
I also worked closely with Oakland Literacy Coalition, reading at various libraries during the year. They took pictures and some video of the various presentations.
How do librarians contact you for visits?
The librarians talk to each other in meetings. I get calls quite often. The San Leandro Library has teachers reading in Chinese, Russian and Spanish – Foreign Languages are in demand! People can email me at:
Bilingual Montessori Teacher (Ret.)
Children’s Book Author
Any funny experiences at a school or library visit? Nearly every author or illustrator has a story about the visit that went awry!
Yes, when I began small children wanted to take home some of the teaching materials I present with, because they are funny, colorful and pretty etc. My inclination is to give them out. Now, I say “this is for teaching only, I must place it back in my bag, so I can use them again.” I was constantly making more teaching materials. I feel that my focus should be in my next book – Following Directions.
I was at the Berkeley Book Festival June 6 and 7, 2015, and I presented at the main Berkeley library. I had the help of some teachers from other countries, like Russian and the Middle East reading in a well synchronized manner, three or four of us, from my book THE FIVE SENSES. It was fun! I got some pictures and a nice positive review from this experience.
Do you have any other new books coming out soon you can mention?
Yes, I have already written Following Directions in Spanish and English, it is my goal to put in as many languages as I can. Perhaps the same number of languages or more?
Anything else you would like our readers to know?
Yes, thank you for saying that – I like to see language acquisition at an early age. We must start a campaign. It should begin at least at the preschool level. I recently visited a small store in Berkeley, and I had the opportunity to speak to a young woman 22 years old, from the south, she was a minority and I couldn’t believe that she spoke my language well, just with a little cute accent. When I asked her how did you learn my language, she responded “my mother placed me in a preschool where my teacher spoke to me in Spanish, Head Start, I was there the according to my mom, from the age of 2 to 5 years old.”
Then language is power, knowledge, peace, friendship, fellowship. It is a real necessity to speak a second language; it is like art and music in today’s busy life, because languages support what we are. In our large, diverse community the acquisition of languages impact dramatically in our education, especially today, now in the digital age.
Thanks to Ms. Hollander for this insightful interview!