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Author helps students embrace love of reading in English, Spanish

Hayes at Tippin  Hayes at Tippin

Hayes at Tippin  Hayes at Tippin

(TIPPIN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL -- March 10, 2020) — A giant paper snake curled around the Tippin Elementary School library entrance welcomed Southwest children book writer, Joe Hayes for bilingual story hour in honor of National Book Reading Week.

The award-winning author known for his bilingual writing, sat down with fifth-grade students during a rainy afternoon in the Tippin library to tell the seemingly innocent story of a boy who went to buy some salt. Hayes visits several EPISD schools each year to share his love of reading and storytelling with students.

The Arizona-born author learned Spanish as a child through lessons from his Mexican-American friends. At Tippin, he made the children chuckle when he told the story of how a friend tricked him to tell a teacher “callate la boca” (you’re your mouth) thinking it meant “I really like you.”

It was his love for Hispanic culture that pushed him to study folklore and inspired him to write his most beloved children’s books, “La Llorona,” “El Cucuy” and “My Pet Rattlesnake.” 

Hayes became a pioneer of English and Spanish storytelling when his push for bilingual print books proved successful and well-received across the nation. 

“When I first started, there wasn’t basically anything really in Spanish available,” said the children’s author. “That’s why I got started … it reminds people of the origin of these stories.” 

Tippin students laughed and covered their eyes when the boy in the story encounters awkward interactions with a man with one eye and a newlywed couple.

“Everyone takes something different away from a story,” Hayes said. “Being able to listen and create a story with their imagination while they hear it is what motivates me to continue visiting schools.”

The children’s author acknowledged the pressure fifth graders might feel about choosing a career path.

“Don’t get in a big panic because you don’t know what you’re going to do when you grow up,” Hayes said. “Maybe you’ll be like me and just keep your mind open and let life show you.”

Story by Liliana Gonzalez
Photos by Leonel Monroy