A Visit to a Bright Horizons Learning Center

Children's Center at Taco Bell

Children’s Center at Taco Bell

I recently did an author visit at the Children’s Center at Taco Bell’s corporate building. The children’s center is run by Bright Horizons, a leading provider of early education and preschools.  I was greeted by a warm group of teachers and a vibrant director, Kim Thorstenson-Root. I was instantly impressed by the the magical and inviting environment of the center.  The charming decorations, learning centers, picture books and student artwork were just perfect.  Imagine being greeted by a giraffe every morning as you come to school? Imagine knowing that your mommy or daddy are in the same building in case you need a hug.

As I waited to be introduced to the little ones who ranged from ages 3-5 years, I observed how engaged they were on the rug as the teacher read them a story.  I counted four teachers and about 20 little ones.  Every student had a nice size cubby with their name and picture on it.  The space was large and open, immaculately clean and well organized. It reminded me of a the children’s bookstore, Shop Around the Corner from the movie, You’ve Got Mail! Everything was so cute and aesthetically pleasing.

When I got introduced to the little ones, I was welcomed with a loud, “Buenos días Ms. Gladys.”  As I shared my picture books with them it was obvious to me that they are in the habit of being read to since they had lots of questions and insightful comments. After we read, they formed a line and patiently waited for me to pass out the pink fire hats and white paper so they could draw their own fire truck.  I noted that these little ones understood class structures and routines.  I walked around and asked them to tell me about their drawings. They had plenty to share and were not shy.  It was amazing.

Reading Room

Reading Room

After my visit with the little ones I got a chance to talk to Kim.  I mentioned to Kim that the children’s center reminded me of the bookstore, Shop Around The Corner. Turns out she used to own a children’s bookstore!  She enthusiastically showed me children’s work samples proudly displayed on the walls. Handwriting Without Tears is one of the programs used at the children’s center. Again, I was impressed by the developmental growth that was demonstrated in their writing portfolios.  As a teacher who loves teaching beginning reading and writing, it was amazing to see these little ones “write” and “read” their ideas put on paper.  Bright Horizons also sends families a Growing Readers Review, a parenting resource with a list of featured picture books in different genres and reading levels. Every featured picture book is also purchased and housed at every children’s center, providing them a rich and growing library.

I am completely enamored with this children’s center. Kim’s passion for her job, the little ones and the community are palpable.  Who wouldn’t love to work here with the amount of support, materials and engaging curriculum that nurtures all learning and social modalities?  The little ones were wiggling, singing, dancing, reading, writing and learning.  Makes me wonder why a safe haven of this caliber isn’t readily available for all children.


Please note I was not compensated by Bright Horizons, nor am I affiliated with this company.  All thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.






When Things Don’t Go Your Way

beach motifSometimes life hits you hard from every angle. You don’t know how you will manage to stay afloat.Last week I decided to throw in the towel at what has been a hopeless and heartbreaking experience. I have prayed about it, meditated and agonized over it but I finally got to the place where I realized, “It is what it is. I just have to find another avenue. Now onto plan G since the other plans have been fruitless.”   At peace with my decision I encountered a sweet and kind elderly man who said, “Don’t give up just yet. I have a feeling.” Pointing his finger up to the heavens he earnestly asked, “Do you believe?” So moved by his unwavering faith I found myself weeping and nodded. I absolutely do believe. And so I tried yet again.

Ironically, everything has gone backwards and day after day I kept getting indications that things were bleaker than I thought.  Even still, when I would break down and cry I was comforted by the elderly man’s faith.  He did say he had a feeling…

Last night I went to a yoga class and the theme was intention. My intention was to find peace in however things unfold. To find hope in what appears to me as hopeless and to trust that God will handle my affairs for the grandest and highest good of all.

I got more dismal news but thankfully I’m not feeling down. Things are so whacky right now I have no other alternative but to laugh. Maybe this is material for some future sitcom that I’ll be writing. It’s just that ridiculous! And I’m still THRIVING;)  God places strangers in our path to give us some enlightening. I’m grateful for the elderly man’s faith and “feeling” and for my yoga teacher’s calming energy.

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” -Martin Luther King Junior

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”― Walt Disney

And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.”-Mark 9:23


Latino Themed Picture Book Winners: 2014 Int’l Latino Book Awards

Here is a list of  Latino themed picture books that have been recognized by the 2014 International Latino Book Awards.  There are a variety of books with different themes, certain to delight your children this summer. Happy Reading!

Best Latino Focused Children’s Picture Book – English

Green Is a Chile Pepper, Roseanne Greenfield Thong, illustrations by John Parra; Chronicle Books

green is a chili pepper








Best Latino Focused Children’s Picture Book – Spanish or Bilingual

Los Mariachis, Rita Rosa Ruesga; Illustrator: Euliser Polan

los mariachis






Best Children’s Fiction Picture Book – English

The Audacious Little Princesses, Janet Breceda Wright, A. E. Wright, & Nataly Wright; Angeleno Avenue Publishing








Best Children’s Fiction Picture Book – Bilingual

Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash, Monica Brown; Children’s Book Press










Best Children’s Fiction Picture Book – Spanish

El Silbido de Juan, Lili Ferreirós; Cuento de Luz



Best Children’s Nonfiction Picture Book

It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden, George Ancona; Candlewick Press











Best Educational Children’s Picture Book – English

Round Is a Tortilla, Roseanne Greenfield Thong, illustrations by John Parra; Chronicle Books









Best Educational Children’s Picture Book – Spanish or Bilingual

¡Hola! ¡Gracias! ¡Adiós!, Elisenda Roca; Editorial Bambu











Most Inspirational Children’s Picture Book – English

Walking Eagle: The Little Comanche Boy, Ana Eulate; Illustrator: Nivola Uya; Cuento de Luz

walking eagle







Most Inspirational Children’s Picture Book – Spanish or Bilingual

Pink Fire Trucks, Gladys Elizabeth Barbieri; Big Tent Books










Here you will find a complete list of book winners in adult, young adult and picture book categories.

2014 Int’l Latino Book Award Winners














2014 Int’l Latino Book Awards: Pink Fire Trucks is a Winner!

Book Award LOGO & Image

Pink Fire Trucks was awarded First Place for Most Inspirational Children’s Picture Book (bilingual) in the 2014 International Latino Book Awards! The awards event was held in Las Vegas in conjunction with the 2014 American Library Association Annual Conference.

The ILBA are presented by Latino Literacy Now in partnership with Las Comadres Para Las Américas and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and is an affiliate of the American Library Association. The International Latino Book Awards are not only one of the largest book awards of any kind in the world, they are also the largest Latino cultural awards in the USA. The goal of the awards is to highlight Latino literature and increase the sales of these books. -Kirk Whisler

I was totally surprised when my name was called. Then panic set in when I realized I had to walk down the stairs to the stage to give a brief acceptance speech.Thankfully I didn’t trip and fall. That would have been disastrous and something that normally would happen to me. I’m not sure what I rambled in my nervousness, but I would like to say now that I am extremely grateful and blessed that this book has been so well received.  What an honor. And what a greater honor to be in a venue with so many creative and talented individuals.

gb award acceptance pic

Awards Ceremony for 2014 Int’l Latino Book Awards

After the awards event, we waited for an hour to get a taxi to take us back to the hotel with no success. Tired and hungry, we ended up walking back, down Flamingo Road, on a hot Vegas summer night with my award plague in hand.  I was no longer smiling and I thought I was going to melt:/

The following morning I attended the ALA Conference at the Las Vegas Convention Center as part of the Award Winning Author Tour.

2014 ALA Conference, Las  Vegas

2014 ALA Conference, Las Vegas

I mingled and networked.  I saw an old friend Sandra Scott and made a new one, Lisa Neisa, who traveled to the awards event all the way from Colombia.  She and I meandered through the vast aisles of books, posters, and authors while I got to practice my español and she, her English.  I was like a kid in a candy store as I got free books for my classroom. We even got serenaded by Elvis!

Award Winning Author Tour (ILBA)

Award Winning Author Tour (ILBA)

elvis alaI’m back home and I’m happy to report I didn’t melt…Las Vegas was fun.

And lastly a big thank you to my parents for teaching me the importance of dreaming, reading and learning.

I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I am afraid of no one. -Malala Yousafzai 

 2014 Int’l Latino Book Awards Winners

Growing Int’l Latino Book Awards Reflect Booming Market via NBC News