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Meet Gladys Elizabeth Barbieri of Chucho’s Books: Bilingual Picture Books

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gladys Elizabeth Barbieri.

Gladys Elizabeth, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve always enjoyed reading, writing and the art of storytelling. I’m fascinated by people’s resiliency and how one person’s struggle can serve as a bridge for another to find hope and strength. As a K/1 teacher I spend most of my time consumed by picture books. I particularly love books that pull on my heartstrings, teach lifelong lessons and remind me that all is possible, even when life is presenting some challenging obstacles. I purposefully look for multicultural and diverse picture books to use in my classroom to expose my students to the richness of our world.

Over ten years ago, it was hard to come by bilingual (English/Spanish) picture books for my students. My dad said, “You’re a writer – why don’t you share your stories with your kids?” And so I did and over time, the stories I would share about myself as a child became the premise of the bilingual picture books I have written.

Has it been a smooth road?
It has not been a smooth road. It’s still not a smooth road, but at least now the path is a bit clearer. I am a full-time teacher and a great deal of my time is spent lesson planning, finding culturally relevant picture books that enhance curriculum. Most importantly, I have my family to attend to. The people I love and value come first. However, while the rejection letters still come my way, the process of writing a story has been nothing less than magical. Words cannot explain what it feels to be so enthralled by a story that its essence wakes you up at 4:00 AM in the morning, begging to be told. You spend months, even years surrounded by characters you get to know so intimately. I know that rejection letters are part of the creative process and that these stories will be told on their own time. In the meantime, I just keep writing and dreaming.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Chucho’s Books: Bilingual Picture Books story. Tell us more about the business.
I write bilingual (English/Spanish) picture books. The picture books I have written are based on my childhood experiences. When I share them with children, I see that the same things that irked me as a kid are still common issues today. For example, sibling rivalry (I was not so kind to my pesky little sister), being teased at school and wanting things that your parents cannot afford. I’m proud that my picture books provide a window for others to see a spunky, spirited and well-rounded Latina little girl dreaming big and making things happen.

In the book, “Pink Fire Trucks/ Los camiones de bomberos de color rosado” a little girl is teased when she says she’s going to be a ‘girl fireman’ when she grows up.

Finding the courage to believe in her dreams she shouts back, “MY DADDY SAYS I CAN BE WHATEVER I WANT TO BE!” Huge reminder that we find our courage from our family members. I’m forever grateful for my parents who continue to cheer me on.

I also write a teacher blog where I share the many picture books and activities I do in my class. I learn so much from other teachers and I hope my blog provides teachers support and ideas on things to try out in the classroom.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I hope to continue writing more books! I also plan on going back to school in the next couple of years to get my Doctor of Education (EdD) in Leadership. In my twenty-one years as an elementary school teacher I’ve learned so much from the great educators who are inspiring students. These individuals are changing and reforming school systems and providing students opportunities to grow in nurturing and enriching school environments. I’d like to teach teachers at the university level, continue to promote multicultural and diverse picture books and work with organizations that aim to share these books with schools. As a children’s author/educator I’ve had the privilege of working with Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California (RIFSoCal), Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCCBD) and Read to a Child – organizations promoting literacy and books. I’d like to continue to do all of this on a larger scale.

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1 Comment

  1. Zarifa M. El

    October 19, 2021 at 15:06

    Hi, I’m Kaia, a pre-k student, I like your books Pink Fire Truck & A Charmed Life.

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