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“Omar, el Jaguar”

“Omar, el Jaguar”

Andrea Olatunji Launches children’s book series in Spanish

Click aqui para español- > “Omar, el Jaguar”

Andrea Olatunji grew up in Montevideo, Uruguay and moved to New Orleans in 2002 as the first Uruguayan to participate in a Fulbright teaching program.

She evacuated due to Katrina in 2005. When her first son was born in 2015, she and her husband decided it was time to return to New Orleans.

As a language teacher, Andrea finds stories to be a remarkable resource to enable children to explore their own cultural roots and get insights into different traditions and values. Through her teaching years, she always found it difficult to find the right resources for her Spanish lessons and usually ended up creating them herself, which was exciting but extremely time-consuming.

Two years ago, she decided to put a passion for books, art, and teaching together and start writing her own stories. And that’s “Omar, el Jaguar” was born. It is the first book of an upcoming series that promises to continue the traditional use of storytelling as a very natural way to help children learn a language.

As Andrea reminds us, “reading stories to children at a young age promotes a feeling of well-being and relaxation, increases their willingness to communicate their thoughts and feelings, encourages imagination and creativity, and, of course, increases their verbal proficiency.”           

What is “Omar, el Jaguar” about?

Omar is a lonely jaguar that wants to make friends. He encounters other animals that invite him to play but he thinks they are not suitable to be his playmates because they don‘t look like him. He later discovers that they do have something in common and that they need to team up to protect it. Being different can be an advantage after all.

How did you come up with the story and character for “Omar, el Jaguar”?

When I decided to create this series of books for children, I intended it to be more than just a story. I wanted it to teach beautiful values and to showcase our rich and diverse Hispanic culture. So, the idea of using animals that are native to the Americas as main characters popped up.  The jaguar is an amazingly beautiful animal which was considered sacred among many pre-Columbian societies. It is also in danger of extinction, so I thought this could be a great springboard to bring awareness into this issue.

I find the jaguar so fascinating that I even named my son after it. His name is Nahuel, which means jaguar in the Mapuche language. That‘s how “Omar, el jaguar” was born. This book delivers two important messages: embracing diversity and protecting our environment.

What is Cuentacuento?

Cuentacuento (meaning storyteller in English) is a site where parents and teachers can find beautiful stories to share with their young audiences. Storytellers have been some of the first keepers and spreaders of culture. In these challenging times when kids spend considerable amounts of time in front of a screen, Cuentacuento aims to foster the fascinating experience of telling and listening to stories.This project stems from an instructional framework that my husband and I promote as educational consultants in our company Align Education, LLC. The framework is called F.A.C.E.S., which stands for FUN, AFFIRMATION, CHALLENGE, EXPRESSION, and SUCCESS.  These elements – which we believe are crucial for learning and success – are behind all my stories.

Why are the stories in Spanish?

All the stories are in Spanish, but the educator guides, website, and other documents are in English. This is because my main audience is educators and schools in the United States. I am also trying to help those parents who don’t speak Spanish but want to expose their kids to the language. With time, I would like to make the website and resources bilingual but not the stories. Personally, I don’t like bilingual stories. I have a four-year old son and we read in Spanish or in English but not both in the same book. Having taught little ones, I never needed to translate to them. We would use mime, pictures, gestures, etc., to convey meaning, and here is where having the vocabulary contextualized into a story helps! You have the plot, the pictures, everything you need!

Tell us about upcoming projects.

Once the project gets funded, I will get my hands busy with the next book in the series. In fact, I already have it in draft, and it addresses an important element I think every student needs.

I am also planning storytelling activities, teacher workshops and school visits, among other things to promote the books.

Where can people get “Omar, el jaguar”?

The book is available now for pre-order. Being a part-time teacher, I don’t have the funds to carry out a project like this without help. For this reason, I am planning a fundraising campaign where people will be able to purchase the book at discounted price plus exclusive rewards. This launched September 9th.  Right now, anyone that’s interested can sign up to my website cuentacuento.com and get first dibs on these discounts and rewards.-

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