Teacher Appreciation Gifts That Teachers Actually Want

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As we all know, educators are some of the most hard-working and under-appreciated professionals out there. They are in charge of teaching our children valuable information that will stick with them well beyond their school years. It is a thankless job that often goes without recognition and it takes a truly special person to dedicate their life to educating children.

Therefore we should try our best to give our children’s educators things they actually need or items that will help them throughout the school year, including as the school year comes to a close. Here is a list of gift ideas to show your favorite teacher appreciation as the school year wraps up. 

Classroom Supplies
Oftentimes when there’s a shortage of supplies within the classroom, teachers will dip into their own pockets to get whatever is needed. Whether it is for an individual student or the class as a whole, teachers spend both time and money to make sure their classroom is stocked with the supplies needed for daily activities. 

Cleaning Supplies
Keeping a classroom tidy is no easy task. Teachers often purchase their own cleaning supplies to keep their space clean, including putting away their classrooms for the summer. Items such as disinfectant wipes, disinfectant spray, windex, dry erase board cleaning wipes, dusters and hand sanitizer are just a few products that can help keep their classroom nice and tidy. 

Gift Cards
Teachers work hard daily to prepare children for their future. It’s a challenging and sometimes frustrating task, therefore teachers deserve a break since they do so much. Ask your teacher what their favorite restaurant is or where they get their coffee from. A gift card is a thoughtful gift idea that allows them to take a much needed break at their favorite spot. 

Teacher Amazon Wish List
Almost every teacher now has an Amazon wishlist. Through their lists, you can help them purchase items such as books or classroom activities that they have specifically chosen. This wish list makes it easy to give your beloved educator something they chose for themselves.

Volunteer
Whether it’s volunteering for a school activity or purchasing something for them, letting your beloved educator know that you care to help in any way can show them that they are thought of and appreciated.

Still at a loss? Ask them!
I consider this to be the best idea on this list. Simply ask the teacher what it is that they need. Let them know that you would love to help with or provide something that they are in need of right now. This can show the teacher that you see how hard they work and that you would love to ease the job for them, even if it’s only for a moment.

Educators are the backbone of our society and deserve recognition for everything they do for our children. Hopefully this teacher appreciation gift list gave you some great ideas on what to give your favorite educator. 

The Blessing of a Single Mother and Grandmother

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single mom walking with daughter

In a world where conventional family structures often take center stage, the beauty of being raised by a single mother and grandmother can be overlooked. As I reflect on my journey, I realize how fortunate and blessed I am to have been nurtured by two strong mujeres who paved the way for my future.

Growing up under the guidance of these remarkable women, I realized the privilege and blessing it was to be nurtured by their strength, resilience, and love. Por ustedes, me pude convertir en una mujer sin miedo a triunfar!

Alongside my mother stood my Tita (my grandmother), a force of nature in her own right.

My Tita was a tiny yet strong woman with a heart as vast as the desert skies. She fostered in us the values of perseverance, dignity, and family above all else. Her presence was a source of strength, her wisdom a guiding light illuminating our darkest hours.

I was blessed to see firsthand the resilience and determination of my mother throughout my life. Even with the many challenges, she stood as a beacon of strength, love, and sacrifice illuminating my path. Every hurdle she overcame, and every sacrifice she made, was a testament to her boundless dedication to ensuring my well-being and success.

We called ourselves Las 3 Mosqueteras [The Three Musketeers]. In the face of any challenges, we always knew that together anything could be solved. From them, I learned the true meaning of courage, grit, and unconditional love that knows no limits. Their sacrifices laid the foundation for the life I lead today, imbued with gratitude and a deep appreciation for the beauty of resilience.

As Las 3 Mosqueteras, I was able to look up to a beautiful example once I became a mother. I was able to embrace self-love, goals, confidence, and most importantly, resilience. With them by my side, I was able to look up to the beauty of motherhood and the beauty of being a woman.

Now, as a mother myself, I look back on their journey with profound admiration and gratitude for my single mother and grandmother. I see the countless sacrifices, the sleepless nights, and the determination that shaped my upbringing. The memories and values embedded in my life, are now being passed to my children.

Let us not forget the beauty found in the strength of single mothers and the unwavering support of grandmothers. Their love knows no bounds, and their legacy lives on in the hearts of those they have touched. Let’s embrace the bonds between mothers, grandmothers, and daughters.

Beyond the Stereotypes: Navigating Life with OCD

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Let’s talk about mental health for a bit. No, I’m not talking about depression or anxiety, which is what the mental health conversation usually surrounds. I want to talk about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

“OMG, I’m so OCD! It drives me crazy if my house isn’t clean or when my desk isn’t organized!” No, we’re not going to feed into those stereotypes, because that is not OCD. If those thoughts lead to thinking that you’ll contract a deadly illness or that the mess will lead to a hoarding disorder then that is OCD.

The Start of My OCD

I’ve had OCD for the past seven years. What started out as perinatal OCD turned into full-blown OCD after having my son. I didn’t know what was happening to me. Heck, I’m still trying to figure out what OCD is, how people develop it, who is most vulnerable, the subtypes, and how the brain plays a part in it.

My first touches OCD included thoughts of my son being harmed. Violent, sinister, horrible thoughts. It brought on intense anxiety.

Why were these thoughts popping up?

Was I wanting this to happen?

Should I have ever been a mom in the first place?

What if I act on these thoughts?

These thoughts, along with untreated major depression and anxiety, led me to being hospitalized for eight days. That was then followed by a month of intensive outpatient therapy and medications. I avoided my son and isolated myself from my family. How could I be such a monster? What kind of person thinks those thoughts? I hated myself in those moments.

Eventually I got better, but bonding with my son was hard. I kept trying to re-establish my relationship with him for years. In some ways, I still find myself trying to because of the feelings of guilt for missing out at the beginning. Then in 2020, I had another episode. This one more intense than the first and involving more subtypes of OCD along with it.

From Thoughts to Compulsions

This was the height of COVID-19 and the summer of protests against police brutality. The thoughts came back, paralyzing me, stressing me, debilitating me.

What if I, or someone in my family, contracted COVID and died?

Do I need to start on a will?

What if a civil war breaks out?

Am I safe?

Then thoughts about death and existentialism came up. I’m terrified of death.

What happens after?

Am I a good enough person to get into heaven?

What is the point of all this if we’re all going to die?

I tried reconnecting with God. Reading bible verses gave me comfort. Then other thoughts came to mind.

What if God doesn’t love me?

What if I’m not living my life correctly according to God?

I just couldn’t catch a break. My OCD latched onto everything I cared about and tried to twist them into something dark and scary. After attending a protest myself, I was in the ER with heat exhaustion and the sheer panic of feeling this impending doom and like the world was crumbling around me sent me into a spiral of panic. For days on end, my heart was beating hard and fast in my chest. The thoughts did not stop, and what was worse is the thoughts of my son being harmed came back more violent, gruesome, distressing. I took a leave of absence at work and spent another month at the behavioral health facility.

I felt panicked driving. What if I get into a car crash?

I felt panicked watching TV. What if the content of this show triggers an intrusive thought?

I felt panicked listening to music. What if I hear something said that causes me to start spiraling?

I literally shut myself in my room and avoided my son and family. I couldn’t eat and needed pills to sleep. Even the feeling of the pills starting to kick in sent me into a panic of questioning, “Why was I feeling so weird. This isn’t normal!”

That is when I started doing compulsions. I did everything to try to stop the thoughts. If it was a violent thought, I’d try to replace some of the element of the thought to make it less violent. If I had a thought about COVID, I’d seek reassurance from myself and others that we wouldn’t get sick and die. If I had thoughts about God hating me, I’d pray and try to purify myself to be more lovable. I distinctly remember that first night of my episode, unable to calm down, my mom crawled into my bed with me, holding me, whispering to me that things would be okay. Given my heightened state of panic, my body started to twitch, like I was shivering, shivering with fear. Even my mother’s own embrace couldn’t comfort me and get me out of my head. A few days after I started on new medication, I sat down to (not) eat with my family. My mom looked at me and said, “I don’t know if I like these meds you’re on. You seem completely catatonic.” Through the brain fog and unfocused gaze, all I could say was, “It’ll pass. I’d rather be numb like this than experiencing what I have been.” Things got better for awhile. I finally got into a nice groove, so nice that I thought, “Eh, I don’t need these medications anymore. I’ve been okay for awhile.” Although the anxiety of another episode always loomed in the back of my mind, I figured I was fine enough to not need any support.

Living with OCD

In 2023, I got a fantastic job offer: better pay, better benefits, and doing something I thought I would love. But the reality of the change set it and of course, I began to doubt.

What if I’m not good enough?

What if I’m not the right candidate?

What if they realize I’m not good at this and then they fire me?

I backed out of the position. I was so frustrated with myself. Did I self-sabatoge this amazing opportunity? No, I didn’t. As I learned, OCD can flare up even when good change occurs. This time I was mad at myself and my brain. With no job, no health insurance, and running low on money, I had to seek help once again. Same ole story: new medications, new therapist, new routines. This time I was prepared. I had an action plan even in the midst of my unwanted thoughts and panic. I knew what worked for me in the past and I was determined to get better quickly.

Yet, once again my OCD evolved. I started to repeat words in my head and had songs stuck on repeat, a type of OCD called “ear worms.” My dreams started to involve my biggest fear of my son being hurt and a barrage of themes around my relationship with my partner being destroyed. Around Halloween I was convinced some of my son’s candy was poisoned after ingesting it. I fell into the same old habits of doing mental compulsions and avoidance, it was second nature to me. I couldn’t eat or sleep, my thoughts would follow me into the night and I would wake up in a panic. It wasn’t until I started therapy and did more research on OCD that I started to resist my compulsions. I thought my compulsions were trying to keep me safe – to assure me I wasn’t a bad person who wanted these thoughts to happen. I didn’t know compulsions fuel the cycle of OCD. I had to stop engaging in these activities if I wanted to get better.

During this time I reflected on what OCD had done to me. I felt split in two. On one hand, I’m a mom, a worker, a lover of animals and reading, someone with ambition and tenacity. On the other, I’m a fearful, scared, out-of-control, irrational hermit who lives in their own head. If I could describe a real-life scenario of what it’s like to have OCD, it’s as if you’re trapped in a lion enclosure. Yeah those animals aren’t wild and have likely lived in the zoo their whole lives, but that doesn’t mean they won’t attack you. You’ve got your back to the wall, wondering if they’ll kill you. It’s paralyzing. It’s imminent. It’s consuming.

I had a hard time reconciling who I am when I’m in the throes of an episode and when I’m not in one. It’s still so hard for me to come to terms with that side of myself. It’s like someone takes control of my brain and wants to cause me the most distress possible. But one thing I always try to remind myself is that these thoughts are not reality. A question I ask myself is this: Could this actually happen? Yes, it’s possible. Is it likely to happen? Probably not. Dealing with uncertainty and doubt is the foundation of OCD and we have to learn to live with those feelings.

Breaking the Stigma Around OCD

I’m a person who has an illness, one that could last a lifetime, and I have to accept that. I know my thoughts aren’t real. They’re imaginations from my brain as a result of life stressors, brain chemicals, and possibly genetics. The more I learn about OCD, the better understanding I have of it and the better equipped I am to accepting myself and educating those around me. I’ve participated in research studies to understand the link between genetics and OCD. I also engaged in a study of the prevalence of OCD in Latine populations. I’ve made it a point to openly talk about my illness with my family, friends, and partner. My goal is to shed the stigma surrounding it and to make people realize OCD is not a cute buzzword to carelessly throw around. For some people, it can cause attempts to take their own life or cause them to not leave their house. I hope that we can start to have conversations about the less common mental health issues like OCD, schizophrenia, bipolar, and borderline personality disorder without inducing stereotypes.

I’ve gone through this whole experience feeling misunderstood, feeling like no one could ever understand, but I’ve found an incredible support system who try. I am loved, supported, and heard. I want to thank everyone who has listened, even though they can’t sympathize or understand, who has helped me care for my son when all I wanted to do was hide in my room. I still worry for the next episode, if there ever will be one again, but I’m steadfast in knowing I can get through it if it does happen.

You Are Already Latina Enough, Mija

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When I was way too young, I fell in love with someone in Mexico, got married, and then he immigrated to the United States for me. A few years later, I got pregnant. I was so excited that my daughter would have, via her father, an actual culture to celebrate. I’ve always had this idealized perception of culture – of it being a living, breathing, almost tangible thing. And to be honest, as a white woman in the United States, I’ve never felt like I had a culture that I could embrace and celebrate. 

But when my daughter was 5? That person who was supposed to share his culture with her? He left. The amount of time that he was in her life wasn’t enough, and it definitely wasn’t enough to help her develop herself as a Latina, to develop her identity as a Mexican-American.

Since 2017, my daughter has been raised by a full-time single white mom in an environment where there is unfortunately very little exposure to or representation of Mexican culture. Honestly, raising her in the area of the Midwest where we live, there is minimal exposure to any Latino culture in our community. I’m afraid that the encouraged integration, almost inevitable assimilation to “white culture” will suffocate her Mexican ancestry.

 

I want to help her find ways to learn about her culture, immerse herself in it, and celebrate it. I want her to grow up to be a proud Mexican-American. Since her dad is out of the picture, it’s my responsibility to help her develop her Mexican-American identity. I need to make sure that she never forgets that she is a part of that community, that she has a right to be a part of it. I have to keep that “half” of her alive, I have to make sure that she is “Latina enough”.

I need her to know that Día de los Muertos is so much more than what she sees in Coco. Dunkin and Starbucks are great, sure, but there’s something special about pan dulce and café de olla. She needs to know that there’s an entire world of Mexican music out there, and that it doesn’t begin and end with Peso Pluma. And I want to make sure she understands that fútbol is so much more than fútbol, and that Frida wasn’t just an artist – she represents so much more. I need her to know that Rockaletas pican, and that there’s something about seeing that silly face on a Paleta Payaso that always makes you smile, and that Gansitos are WAY better than Twinkies. She needs to know that tacos are so much more than just “Taco Tuesday”… I mean, tacos al pastor con cebolla, cilantro, y piña? Para chuparse los dedos. How can I forget to mention sopes, and tortas, and elote. And, she needs to watch at least one entire season of a telenovela. Most importantly, I need her to know that any amount of Spanish she knows is great, but that not fluently speaking Spanish doesn’t make her any less Latina.

I know some of the cultural “life lessons” I mentioned above are very surface level; they barely even begin to convey what it means to be Mexican or Mexican-American. However, my hope is that whatever I can share with her and expose her to, will then encourage her to begin her own journey. A journey in which she discovers what it means to be Latina, what it means to be Mexican-American. And that being Latina isn’t easily defined and doesn’t mean you have to be one certain way; it means so many diverse things to so many different people.

And Sophia – if you ever happen to read this – mija, you are already Latina enough. You were born Latina enough, and always will be Latina enough.

The Power of Family Stories: Strengthening Bonds and Building Literacy

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“Is that an old song, mama?” My little one asked me one day as I sang her to sleep. “Yes, Tata [my father] taught it to me when I was little.” 

“Will you tell me about it tomorrow?” She yawned as she closed her eyes. As she drifted to sleep, I thought of the first times I heard that song. I could feel myself sitting in a small church down a dirt road as my dad played his black guitar while singing the song that is now ingrained in my mind. For my daughter, that memory would just be a story but for me it was history.

Stories like that are all around us aren’t they? In the midst of our busy schedules and everyday life, we sometimes forget to retell those stories or feel we need to wait for the “right” moment to share them with our children. But those stories that come from our families over the years hold more than just old memories; they are what weave together the members of our family shaping our identities and strengthening our bonds.

Importance of Family Storytelling

Research has proven that when we share our family stories there are long-lasting impacts for our children. A study highlighted by the University of Nevada, Reno, emphasizes that family stories provide not just a glimpse into the past but also a sense of continuity and belonging for children. When parents share these tales, children perceive their family as stronger, experience higher self-esteem, and exhibit resilience in the face of stress. Family storytelling isn’t merely entertainment; it’s a cornerstone of emotional intelligence and resilience.

Studies also show that when parents use more details and emotions when talking about past everyday events, called elaborative reminiscing, with their preschool-aged children, the children told more detailed narratives one to two years later. These children also demonstrated a better understanding of other people’s thoughts and emotions.

The benefits of storytelling extend beyond emotional well-being. Language and literacy skills flourish when family stories are used. As children listen to stories of older generations, they begin grasping the cadence of language, process story structures, and expand their vocabulary. The simple act of recounting tales from childhood fosters communication skills and ignites a love for reading. Through storytelling, parents become the architects of their children’s linguistic development, guiding them through the world of words and imagination.

Tips for Storytelling Within Our Homes

The magic of face-to-face storytelling will never pass away, but at times we may need some ideas on how to incorporate it into our day-to-day lives. Here are a few tips to encourage storytelling:

  • Be intentional with the human connection and how you tell stories. Use time around the dinner table to share a story or switch out your bedtime book for a snuggle and storytelling session.
  • Encourage children to share their own stories. By sparking their creativity they themselves will be strengthening family bonds.
  • Use photographs or heirlooms. Every artifact holds a story waiting to be told—a story that binds us to our past and shapes our future.

Traditional Storytelling in a Digital World 

But how can families harness the power of storytelling in a digital age? Enter StoryKasa, a bridge between tradition and technology. With the marvels of digital recording, families can immortalize their stories, preserving them for future generations. Whether it’s abuela’s tales of adventure or Dad’s childhood mischief, these recordings serve as heirlooms of the heart, passed down like treasured artifacts. Through StoryKasa, families can transcend time and space, sharing their narratives across distances and generations.

Right now, all Latina Mom Collective readers can receive a 3-month Premium subscription to StoryKasa.. Use code: TEQWUOZY after creating a free account to upgrade to the Premium experience.

Let us embrace the legacy of family storytelling, for within these stories lie the keys to our past, the wisdom of our ancestors, and the promise of our tomorrows. Let us listen, let us share, and let us weave the threads of our family tales into a tapestry of love, resilience, and belonging.

While this post is part of a series that has been sponsored by StoryKasa, all opinions, thoughts and research is shared in truth by the Latina Mom Collective Editorial Board.

3 Ways to Empower Moms in Every Stage

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Some of what drives my soul is empowering women. A branch from that is supporting and empowering moms no matter the stage of motherhood that they are in. Motherhood looks different for each of us as there are many stages and groups. We have the moms to be, the new moms, the toddler moms, the stepmoms, the moms that add grand to the title, the homeschool moms, the moms of twins, the moms of teens, the sports moms, the stay at home moms  and so many more out there. 

While we focus on welcoming each other as moms, sometimes we can’t help but gravitate to the moms that we have the most in common with. This does not mean that we have nothing in common with the others. It only means that we are in the same stage of motherhood. 

Below are some mindful notes that I’ve made for myself to empower moms that are not in the same stage as I am.

Engage and Connect with Different Moms

I’ve learned from some of the networking events that I have attended that each mom has a story about their current stage of motherhood and want to talk about it. I make it a point to connect with those moms that are in a different stage than me. For example, at a recent event I met a mom that was in her 50’s or 60’s. I could see in her eyes that she wanted to connect and share her story as the younger moms were doing. Her children no longer live at home. I sat with her and her husband as they shared photos with me of where their son currently resides. It turns out that we had more in common than I thought. We both had visited Asheville, NC and we share the love for breweries in Miami. 

Celebrate Moms in All Stages

Motherhood should be celebrated daily. No matter the stage that we are in, at the end of the day we made it as a mom. If you are starting motherhood and you meet a mom who has their children transitioning to middle school, let’s celebrate her stage as much as you love for another to celebrate how you are doing as a new mom. Same as if you are a mom that has her kids in high school already and you meet a mom-to-be, share that moment under the umbrella of motherhood and give her grace as she’s entering this journey.

Listen and Be Compassionate

Don’t we all struggle as moms? Especially when it comes to disciplining our kids? Let’s stop judging each other on the decisions we make with our children as moms. One morning, a mom that is a member at the all women’s gym I attend, walked in fuming. As she started to let it all out on a vent about the mess her kids made right before school, I stood there for a moment to listen and I thought to myself how I’ve been there many times. She had a tone of frustration because she did not know what to do to discipline them. She also felt some guilt because she had yelled at them. Her eyes started to get teary and at that moment, I hugged her. I didn’t judge her for yelling at them. I did not interrupt her vent by saying one of my stories. This was her stage in motherhood – finding the disciplinary balance. So, I showed her compassion and reassured her that her mom instinct will tell her how to handle this issue.

As I think about these situations, I’m asking myself what stage/group do I find myself? The stage that I’m in of motherhood connects me to the moms of adult children, moms in sports, moms of teens, boy moms, and stepmoms to name a few. But my heart smiles when I connect with other moms in different stages of motherhood. That is when I feel the most gratitude – when we can empower moms. 

Embracing Motherhood: Finding Strength in Stumbles and Learning to Say ‘Soy Yo’

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Me caí, me paré, caminé, me subí

Me fuí contra la corriente y también me perdí

Fracasé, me encontré, lo viví y aprendí

My daughter first introduced this song to me a few years ago after 

a teacher shared it with her high school Spanish class.

The catchy beat stuck, but the words stuck even more!

Cuando te pegas fuerte más profundo es el beat, sí

Sigo bailando y escribiendo mis letra’

Sigo cantando con la’ puerta’ abierta’

Atravesando por todas estas tierras

Y no hay que viajar tanto pa’ encontrar la respuesta

Y no te preocupes si no te aprueban

Cuando te critiquen tú solo di:

¡Soy yo!

~Bomba Estéreo

The translation:

I fell, I stopped, I walked, I got up

I went against the current and I also got lost

I failed, I found myself, I lived it and I learned from it

The harder you hit yourself the deeper is the beat, yes

I keep dancing and writing my lyrics

I keep singing with the doors open

Crossing all these lands

And you don’t have to travel so much to find the answer

And don’t worry if they don’t approve of you

When they criticize you, just say:

It’s me

I don’t know why I like this song so much.

Maybe it’s the confidence of the girl portrayed in the video

that I wish I emulated at her age. Maybe it’s that when I look

at the lyrics through my mommy lens, something about 

the words incapsulate the messiness and complexities of my motherhood journey.

The words authentically and vulnerably make my heart say, Yes!

Me caí, me paré, caminé, me subí

I’ve stumbled along the way. Some days feeling defeated and not at all like I was being the best mom. Sometimes the pressure and expectations that came with mothering knocked me flat on my face, but I always got up. Amiga, remember you get do-overs. Remember after each gloomy day, there will be sunnier days. When you fall, be kind to yourself. Be patient. Take what you need, and then stand back up.

Fracasé, me encontré, lo viví y aprendí

There is a long list of mommy fails and missteps I’ve had along the way, but I can’t dwell on it. I have learned and kept moving. Motherhood will challenge you to be introspective and honest with yourself. It’s not easy work, but good work. Amiga, you will get some things wrong, we all do. The question is, Will you learn from it? I have learned valuable lessons on my limitations, my humanity, how to ask for help, saying no, letting go, and so many more things.

Y no te preocupes si no te aprueban

Cuando te critiquen tú solo di:

¡Soy yo!

And this part! Your motherhood journey is your story, one-of-a-kind, unique to you! Amiga, don’t worry about what other moms are doing or saying. Discern and sift through it all, so that you do what is best for you and your family. Don’t seek the approval of others.

There is freedom to say…

I want to breastfeed; I don’t want to breastfeed.

I want to homeschool; I don’t want to homeschool.

My kids will go to public school; my kids will go to private school.

I will shop organic; I will shop economically.

I will stay home; I will work.

Do you, amiga! Say, ¡Soy yo!

Enhancing Childhood Development: The Power of Reading Aloud and Audiobooks

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The Power of Reading Aloud and Audiobooks

The best parts of my childhood revolve around books. Whether they were picture books or chapter books, those pages created magical worlds. My imagination would run wild and I found myself daydreaming of the places that I read about. Little did I know that I was dreaming and learning at the same time.

Did you know that embracing our imagination through reading — through both reading aloud and audiobooks — is key to a lifetime of learning. Whether they’re only beginning to grasp language or a middle-schooler diving into more complex stories, our willingness to read to our children is a priceless gift. It’s a practice that not only fosters a love for stories but also lays the foundation for a lifetime of learning.

A Gateway to Worlds Unseen

When we read aloud to our younger children, we’re not simply sharing stories; we’re opening doors to new vocabularies and concepts. Picture books become gateways to dreamy realms, where dragons roam and heroes rise. But the benefits extend far beyond entertainment. Through reading aloud children absorb the rhythms and cadences of language. They’re then able to refine their own speaking skills in the process.

For older or independent readers, the magic of reading aloud still exists. It offers an opportunity for shared exploration. Parents and children can discuss complex themes and characters. Reading with a parent even allows them to have access to stories that may beyond their current reading level or preferred genres.

Bridging the Word Gap through Reading Aloud and Audiobooks

Aside from exploring new worlds, reading also helps children access new words. Accessing these new words “bridges the word gap.” What is the word gap? By 3 years of age, there is a significant difference in exposure to new words between children from the wealthiest and poorest families.

More research shows that children exposed to fewer words face significant disadvantages in school readiness and long-term educational outcomes.

Empowering Struggling Learners

For reluctant readers or those struggling with language barriers, audiobooks can empower them in encouraging ways. They allow them to engage with content beyond their reading level while fostering a love for reading. Audiobooks provide struggling readers with an immersive experience, enhancing comprehension and leading to appreciation of written text. Audiobooks can also boost confidence, improve fluency, and instill a sense of accomplishment in them.

Including Average and High-Level Readers Through Reading Aloud and Audiobooks

But audiobooks aren’t just for struggling readers; they cater to the diverse learning styles of all students. Average to high achievers can use audiobooks to explore more challenging texts, try new genres, or refine their fluency. With both reading aloud and audiobooks, these readers can explore more variety or challenges on their own terms.

Do you remember the first time you were read aloud? Or what about when a teacher read aloud a book that you loved in class? Maybe you’ve never experienced the magic of hearing a story told to you (for that I am so sorry because you deserved that experience). No matter where you fall in that spectrum, you can begin a new journey of reading with your children and family. In just a few minutes every day, you can expand their horizons and begin setting them up for success. 

Or, maybe, you’re struggling with your own reading fluency or just struggle with time. By using audiobooks for your reading sessions, you can contribute to your child’s development with a few clicks of an app. 

So, pick up a book, hit play on an audiobook, and embark on a journey of imagination with your child today. The benefits of reading aloud and audiobooks will last a lifetime.

Looking into how to begin using audiobooks for your family’s reading journey?

StoryKasa is a free audio storytelling platform that provides families, schools, and communities an easy way to create and listen to stories from around the world and in multiple languages. Discover the magic of storytelling through StoryKasa’s library of audio stories by clicking here

While this post is part of a series that has been sponsored by StoryKasa, all opinions, thoughts and research is shared in truth by the Latina Mom Collective Editorial Board.

3 Latina Authors to Search for at the Library

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Stack of books with flowers in vase on top | 3 Latina Authors

Throughout publishing history, Latina writers continue to be underrepresented, resulting in a lack of our narratives. Yet, over the years, strides have been made towards the inclusion of our voices in literature, courtesy of trailblazing Latina authors who shattered barriers, weathered microaggressions, and racism, and filled a void. Here are a few of our favorite Latina authors to celebrate and search for on your next library visit.

Sandra Cisneros

The first Latina author (specifically Mexican-American) that I was introduced to (and ignited my passion for writing) is Sandra Cisneros. When I was a freshman in high school, I read her best-selling and critically acclaimed novel The House On Mango Street (1983) which follows a young Mexican American girl growing up in Chicago which sold millions of copies. That book forever changed my life. For the first time I was able to recognize familiar characters and themes in a book.

Julia Alvarez

Julia Alvarez left the Dominican Republic for the United States in 1960 at the age of ten (although she was born in the United States). Over the course of her life she has written six novels, three books of nonfiction, three collections of poetry, and eleven books for children and young adults. In college, I was introduced to In the Time of the Butterflies (1994) and my eyes opened to the plight of other Latinos in their countries. Her other well-known novel How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (1991) was the first novel by a Dominican-American woman to be critically acclaimed in the United States.

Laura Esquivel

In her debut novel, Like Water for Chocolate (1995), Laura Esquivel creates both a novel and cookbook that explores the tale of a family during the turn of the century in Mexico. This book was later adapted into an award-winning film and helped increase visibility of Mexican literature throughout mainstream media. She has since written 10 novels, many of which have explored Mexico’s complex history and race relations.

Latina Mom Collective sometimes links to affiliate links when we share purchases we love and recommend. This means if you click on a product we suggest, like these Latina author’s book, and you purchase from that link, we may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. Every product we share is something we genuinely love, recommend, and have in our own homes!

Gardening and Caring for My Mental Health

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The older I become, the more I enter my wandering around the garden señora era. My favorite place in my city is the botanical garden. I could spend hours there. Sadly responsibilities take priority most days, so I settle on my own garden for my fix. One day I’ll have a cottage garden, but for now I dig in pots and small garden beds on my porch and backyard.

As someone who lives with anxiety and depression, the peace that I find when gardening is magical. There’s something about caring for these delicate plants that helps me release the negative energy that sometimes suffocates me. Caring for these delicate roots are a reminder that with water, sunshine and patience I can grow past my own mental illnesses. 

With the lightest touches and slightest snips, I can see my plant grow and feel my body releasing the tension from the base of my neck to my shoulders. I need to shift my focus towards my hands and pruners as I hold delicate leaves. It leads me away from intrusive thoughts and calms my racing mind. It steadies my hands so I don’t make unnecessary cuts or damage. It teaches me that growth doesn’t lead to a perfect bloom.

There is no need to chase perfection when working with plants because you have very little control over humidity or sunshine. You learn to accept that you try your best and that beauty can still come to life – even if it’s not what you expected. Sometimes surviving is a win and whatever happens after that can lead to even more growth.

When watching a plant grow, you don’t see it grow. You begin to understand what looks like healthy growth or what looks like disease, but you don’t see it grow moment by moment. Like with mental illness, you know it’s always there, but you don’t always feel it. Some days you’re at peace and content, but other days leave you feeling tired and sore even though all you’ve done is sleep. During those long days, it’s important to have something to channel your energy (even if there’s very little of it left) into something else other than the thoughts that rob you of your joy. It’s important to remind yourself that growth is still possible even if you can’t see it.

As important as counseling and therapy sessions are, gardening can help those tools for those of us struggling with mental health. Whether you have a sprawling backyard or a small balcony, there’s always room to cultivate a little piece of paradise. So, grab your trowel, put on your gardening gloves, and let nature be your guide on the journey to blooming through any mental health struggles that you face. Happy gardening, amigas.

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