Moms cre­ate Span­ish-lan­guage books

The Columbus Dispatch - - Front Page - By Alexan­dra Ol­son

NEW YORK — You might have heard of the three blind mice or the itsy-bitsy spi­der who went up the wa­ter spout.

But how about the lit­tle cold and hun­gry chicks?

Any­one who grew up speak­ing Span­ish is prob­a­bly fa­mil­iar with them. But Susie Jaramillo wants every­one to know “Los Pol­li­tos,” a bed­time song about a hen car­ing for her hatch­lings that is as fa­mil­iar in the Span­ish-speak­ing world as “Twin­kle, Twin­kle, Lit­tle Star” is to English speak­ers.

The song is the heart of Can­ti­cos, a se­ries of bilin­gual books, com­pan­ion apps and sin­ga­long videos that the Venezue­lanAmer­i­can mother of two dreamed up after she couldn’t find enough Span­ish­language books to read to her chil­dren.

The brand, which made its de­but in 2016, had its big­gest break­through this year when Nick­elodeon adapted it to de­velop a se­ries for tod­dlers on its dig­i­tal plat­forms.

Can­ti­cos cap­i­tal­ized on a grow­ing mar­ket for Span­ish books in the United States, which the tra­di­tional pub­lish­ing in­dus­try has ad­dressed in fits and starts. Small com­pa­nies are step­ping in to fill the void, lever­ag­ing so­cial me­dia and strate­gic re­tail part­ner­ships to tar­get key cus­tomer bases.

“When I had my first child, I went on­line and thought, ‘Where are all the board books of these songs that I grew up with?’ “said Jaramillo, co-founder of a Latino-fo­cused New York ad­ver­tis­ing agency. “We’re al­ways singing the Amer­i­can songs in Span­ish, and our songs are great. Why aren’t peo­ple singing them in English?” Susie Jaramillo reads her book “Los Pol­li­tos.”

Jaramillo teamed with fel­low mother Nuria San­ta­maria Wolfe, a former head of mul­ti­cul­tural strat­egy at Twit­ter, to launch En­can­tos Me­dia Stu­dios, an en­ter­tain­ment com­pany that re­leased Can­ti­cos as the first of its planned bilin­gual brands.

Two other moth­ers, Patty Ro­driguez and Ari­ana Stein, founded their own pub­lish­ing com­pany in 2014 when Ro­driguez couldn’t sell main­stream pub­lish­ers

on her con­cept of a bilin­gual board-book se­ries fea­tur­ing Latino icons and tra­di­tions. The com­pany, Lil’ Li­bros, landed a part­ner­ship with Tar­get just five months after pub­lish­ing its first book, “Count­ing With Frida,” now the best-seller on Ama­zon among chil­dren’s count­ing books. The books are now sold at 1,300 stores na­tion­wide.

“We didn’t ex­pect this re­ac­tion. We were do­ing it for love. If 100 kids picked up our books, we would have been happy,” said Ro­driguez, a se­nior pro­ducer for the ra­dio show “On Air With Ryan Seacrest.”

In an in­ter­net-driven age of frac­tured con­sumer mar­kets, Jaramillo and San­ta­maria Wolf said strate­gic part­ner­ships have been key, par­tic­u­larly with re­tail­ers like Tar­get, which con­sid­ers His­panic moth­ers a key cus­tomer base.

Pam Kauf­man, pres­i­dent of global con­sumer prod­ucts at Vi­a­com/Nick­elodeon, said the com­pany was look­ing for a baby brand when she was in­tro­duced to Can­ti­cos at an in­dus­try con­fer­ence. When she showed the videos to her His­panic col­leagues, some teared up.

“I thought, OK, we have some­thing here,” Kauf­man said. “We are ex­cited about it be­cause it is authen­tic.”

Nick­elodeon, which also added a Span­ish­language hub to its video sub­scrip­tion ser­vice NOGGIN in the spring, is plan­ning a line of Can­ti­cos toys, cloth­ing and decor for next year.

With sales pick­ing up, ma­jor play­ers in the tra­di­tional book in­dus­try are ex­pand­ing their Span­ish-lan­guage busi­ness. HarperCollins launched a new Span­ish-lan­guage divi­sion in 2015. Chicago-based dis­trib­u­tor IPG, al­ready a key dis­trib­u­tor of Span­ish­language books, added two pub­lish­ers from Spain and one from Mex­ico to its list in Novem­ber.

But chal­lenges con­tinue, as Ro­driquez and Stein un­der­stand. They were once stunned to find Lil’ Li­bros — an Amer­i­can se­ries — up­stairs in the “for­eign sec­tion” of an Ore­gon book­store.

Stein scooped them up and marched them down­stairs to the chil­dren’s sec­tion.

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