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Photo: Luli Bilingual Books
Photo: Luli Bilingual Books

How to teach Puerto Rican culture and language to children

Lucy and Lizmer Montalvo are the two sisters behind Luli Bilingual Books, a fun project of cultural and linguistic immersion in Puerto Rican traditions.

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Born in Puerto Rico but living in Virginia, sisters Lucy and Lizmer Montalvo know how important it is for Latinas to preserve their heritage and make their children aware and proud of their roots.

Lizmer arrived in the United States with her husband and two children in 2017, shortly after the tragedy of Hurricane Maria. Her sister Lucy, who lived on the island until she was 10 years old and later returned, went back to the mainland when she graduated in early childhood education.

Soon after, she became a teacher.

Working in diverse classrooms, the sisters were inspired to share the island's culture and traditions, especially with the Puerto Rican community of Charlottesville, where they taught. 

"There were many beautiful books about different cultures and I really wanted to have one about Puerto Rico," Lucy told CBS.

Out of that inspiration was born Luli Bilingual Books and its first project of immersion on the island's gastronomy, The ABC's of Puerto Rican Food, where each letter leads readers to discover a traditional Puerto Rican dish.

"All the illustrations are from our stories of growing up in Puerto Rico," said Lucy. "We had a lot of fun reliving all the memories and all the fun things about our tradition and all because food is a big part of Puerto Rican culture."

Luli's spirit is to generate empathy and show the Puerto Rican, and even Latinx neighbors that they have similarities and an identity fed by collective stories and memories.

"Although we are different, we are all the same," Lizmer said. "Like all these memories of kids playing outside and everything I know, everyone has the same kind of memories, even if they're not the same environment."

In that way, the illustrations and games in Luli's books are a tool for parents and children to sit down and talk and learn about the legacy passed on from generation to generation.

"This book allows each person's legacy to be passed on to the next generation and keeps their culture alive to teach their children to be proud of their language and culture," she said.

The project is available on the Luli Bilingual Books website.

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