November 2011

Kids’ Books Bolivia: an easy and informative way to learn Spanish

For the last three years, students from the United States who are temporary living in Cochabamba have been producing informative and affordable books for children. The books are all bilingual, which make them brilliant tools for learning Spanish as well.

By: Tanja M. Andersen
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Copenhagen - Denmark


Book reading
Photo: Kids’ Books Bolivia

The Spanish language can be a tricky bastard for tourists and volunteers in Bolivia, and not everybody has time and money for taking Spanish lessons. Instead, or as a supplement, we recommend books intended for children.

Kids Books Bolivia is a series of children’s books written by undergraduate students from the SIT Multiculturalism, Globalization and Social Change Study Abroad Program in the United States. All the books are written in both Spanish and English and some of them even in one of Bolivia’s 36 indigenous languages. This makes them excellent as tools for learning new languages.

The students spend a semester of 3 ½ months in Bolivia, and in the last month of their stay they get to do an individual study in any topic they are interested in. Normally, these studies have to end up with a traditional paper of 20-30 pages in Spanish, but the students can also choose to write a kid’s book that raises awareness about Bolivia’s many different cultures and social issues.

It’s all about “ayni”

Kids’ Books Bolivia was created in 2008 by Academic Director Heidi Baer-Postigo, who is from the United States but settled in Bolivia with her Bolivian husband and her two kids. Her motivation for creating Kid’s Books Bolivia is described in her preface in every book:

“Ayni” is a Quechua word meaning “reciprocidad” in Spanish, or “reciprocity” in English. It is one of the most important characteristics of Andean “cosmovisión” or worldview, and has defined and shaped relationships between individuals and communities in the Andes for centuries. As cross-cultural educators for U.S. college students in Bolivia, my co-director and I have put a high value on finding ways in which our students and our program can truly engage in “ayni” -- giving something meaningful back to a country which gives so generously to those of us living here both temporarily and permanently”

Since the project started, this “reciprocity” has resulted in 20 different books covering topics like daily life and customs of indigenous communities, children working in the streets, global warming, and even a cookbook with recipes and stories from all of the nine departments of Bolivia.


Children reading books
Photo: Kids’ Books Bolivia

“The main purpose is producing books for kids that are about the reality they grew up in. They are about the daily life or political issues, so that the kids who are reading the books can identify with the characters and learn more about their own country,” says Heidi Baer-Postigo.

Most of the books are fictional but based on the student’s conversations and social intercourse with the Bolivians. One of these students is Laura Sprinkle, who is the author of the book “Remembering My Grandpa”; a story about Juancito, a young boy who forgot how to smile after the death of his beloved grandpa. Laura wrote the story while she was studying globalization studies and sociology. Now, she is back in Cochabamba to help spread the word about the books.

“I chose writing a kid’s book because of all the lessons we’ve had about reciprocity. I think, this is one of the most important areas.”

“I chose writing a kid’s book because of all the lessons we’ve had about reciprocity. I think, this is one of the most important areas. A book is useful, and that is also why I chose to come back to help getting them out even more. I’ve been working with the libraries that we donated books to and I’ve been working with a theatre group called Colectivo Katari who help us making the books come alive through theatre and puppet shows,” says Laura Sprinkle.

The theatre group has also participated in developing workshops for teachers on how to make most out of the books.

How to buy the books?

The kids’ books are donated to organizations, libraries, schools, and people who can’t afford them. But they are also sold in book stores and by word of mouth.

The easiest way to buy the books is to visit the website: www.kidsbooksbolivia.org Here, you can buy books, donate money and find more information about the project.

The Cueca or the Dance Challenge

Originally the Cueca was a ballroom dance and was only performed in a small area but it soon spread to neighbouring countries in the region. Each culture that the Cueca spread to altered the dance slightly to reflect native dance traditions: in Chile it took on a faster rhythm and, after the war between Peru and Bolivia, the dance became called the Chilena.

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