(Eden Prairie) - What would a little donkey whose name is Pepe like to get for his birthday this year? Probably not another sweater. That’s what he has been getting every year for as long as he can remember.
He already has 12 of them in fact. One in every color of the rainbow: rojo (red), amarillo (yellow), blanco (white), and even turquesa (turquoise), etc.
“Colors are one of the very early images we perceive. So why not read to young children a story which includes foreign words for colors? It can plant the seed for curious little minds to want to learn another language,” said Brigitte Husaby of Eden Prairie.
Husaby authored the new children’s book released this summer entitled Happy Birthday, Pepe!, beautifully illustrated by DJ Malcom. It introduces kids to the Spanish words for twelve colors and a few simple phrases. Pronunciation keys for the Spanish words are provided in the text, as well as in the back of the book.
The former educator is often asked why she has developed a love for other languages. “My response has always been that it did not start with formal instruction in school, but rather before I even went to school. It goes back to the times I spent as a young child in streetcars and buses in my home country of Germany, which were our main form of transportation. I distinctly remember hearing English and Spanish spoken; English by members of the American Armed Forces and their families, Spanish by many guest workers who had come to Germany for work opportunities,” she said.
According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, learning a second language at an early age has a positive effect on intellectual growth, enriches and enhances a child’s mental development and leaves students with more flexibility in thinking and listening. It also opens the doors to other cultures and helps the child understand and appreciate people from other countries.
Recognizing all these benefits, school districts throughout Minnesota now offer language immersion programs, including Eden Prairie Public Schools, which offers a Spanish immersion curriculum at Eagle Heights for students in Kindergarten through 6th grade. Many traditional schools also offer Spanish lessons as part of their overall curriculums.
Now that the book has been published, Husaby is hoping to get it into the hands of preschool and kindergarten teachers to help enhance their lessons. She is also planning to do readings and signings in bookstores.
"My grandchildren loved Pepe's story," said Husaby. "They loved listening to it when they were little, and reading it when they first learned to read. Spanish speaking children learning English might enjoy reading Pepe's story as well, because it makes reference to their first language."
Copies of Happy Birthday! Pepe are available for purchase on Amazon.com. The book is available in paperback, and as an eBook for the Kindle.
- end -