Iowa’s 42-thousand kindergarteners will be getting a book this month from Iowa’s First Lady, Christie Vilsack. It’s part of the First Lady’s effort to give every six-year-old in Iowa a book of their own. This year’s book is written in both English and Spanish. It’s titled “Family Pictures.” Vilsack says she wanted to find a book that would show the “traditions of Latinos, Iowa’s newest residents.” A Washington, D-C organization helped find a handfull of books, then Mrs. Vilsack asked Latino families in Des Moines, Perry and West Liberty to review the collection and pick the one that best represented their traditions. “I think it’s so important not only to teach children how to read but to tell our family stories,” Vilsack says. “Giving children in their early years a sense of story is what helps to prepare them to go to school and (to) be ready to read.” The book was first published in 1990, and features the pictures painted by Carmen Garza. The pictures show the way she remembers the family traditions of her childhood, things like birthday parties and Christmas baking. “I wanted to concentrate on every-day life because I wanted other Mexican Americans to see themselves in the artwork and recognize themselves and feel proud of our culture and our traditions, our language, our music, and food and dance,” Garza says. “I also wanted who are not familiar with the Mexican American culture to recognize the similarities.” The book has been republished in a slightly-larger format, and Garza says the ink in the pictures is more vivid. Vilsack hopes to visit as many schools as she can to personally hand out the books, and she’s been learning Spanish so she can speak with kids who speak Spanish as their first language. Vilsack and Garza handed out books to kindergarteners from two Des Moines elementary schools this morning before going to Perry to hand out the books to kindergarteners there. This is the fourth year Vilsack has handed out free books to Iowa kindergarteners. The project is bankrolled by corporate and individual contributions to the First Lady’s Iowa Stories 2000 Foundation and by Area Education Agencies.
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