Jennifer Leon was teaching in Mexico when the idea for a children’s book sparked within her.
She worked with the equivalent of fourth- and fifth-grade students who were transferred to a different school when they fell behind the rest of their classmates. She wanted to find something that caught their interest and got them excited about learning.
That is where the idea for “El Pinguino” was born.
Leon, a special education teacher at Desert Vista High School, self-published her first book that she wrote, illustrated and designed. Her goal when writing and putting it together was to teach English to Spanish-speakers and visa-versa, as well as grow younger children’s interest in reading. Contained within the pages of “El Pinguino” are stories about animals — such as a penguin, as the title suggests — with one page written in Spanish and the other in English.
“My main goal was to make something that worked for everyone,” she said. “It can be a starting point for some and a stepping stone for others. And it is a book for children to learn no matter what the skill level.”
Leon was a graduate student at the University of Arizona and for her student teaching, she traveled with classmates to Guanajuato, Mexico, for six weeks to work at a school with children who had fallen behind.
“The biggest thing I noticed was that, at the school, they weren’t equipped to deal with kids that fell behind,” Leon said. “It’s partially due to a lack of funds. So I started the book as an activity for them and they loved it. It got them motivated and thinking.”
It took her nearly two years to complete “El Pinguino,” but she has seen early success since releasing it. Leon did a reading at Changing Hands Bookstore, 6428 S. McClintock Drive in Tempe, which is where the book can be purchased.
“I’m really happy with the way it turned out,” she said. “I hope to continue the adventure of ‘El Pinguino’ in another book if people say they enjoy this one.”
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