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December 4, 2023

Books are a point of connection: Sarah Balcazar | My Bookmark

Sarah Balcazar (she/her) is the national senior manager of marketing and communications at Reading Partners. Her first memory connected to reading was when her parents would read aloud to her and her brother. 

“My dad would read us books before bed and he would often start to dose off while reading to us.” Sarah says. “My brother and I would always eagerly await his nonsensical stream of consciousness while he drifted off into sleep, then we would laugh hysterically and repeat his gibberish. ‘Dad, you just said that the three little pigs should turn off the stove before they go to bed.’”

harry potter; books are a point of connection

From those early days reading with her family, Sarah was hooked on books. When she got to elementary school, Harry Potter was just gaining popularity. She remembers her fourth grade teacher reading aloud from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and being completely enthralled by the story and characters. 

“And as I started reading them independently, I was motivated and captivated by the storyline to read books with a higher page count than I had before. I felt so proud and accomplished to finish a whole Harry Potter book!” Sarah says. 

Sarah also loved Anansi the Spider and reading it over and over again as a kid. “The visuals were striking and the story was short, but engaging.”

In thinking back on her ever-evolving relationship with reading, Sarah remembers the joy of being read to as a kid. But, when teachers called on her to read aloud in class, she experienced some reading anxiety. 

“As an introvert, those situations created high-stakes scenarios that pushed me away from my love of reading,” she says. 

But as she’s grown into adulthood, Sarah feels grateful to have reading experiences more in her own control and without those negative aspects that shaped some of her early experiences.

Another big difference between then and now is the kind of books available to her. 

“Growing up in the 90s, there was a very limited selection of books published by or about people of color and native people,” Sarah says. “My parents made an effort to expose us to different experiences and perspectives through books, but the landscape was very limited and many books written about people of color were written by white authors. While there’s still a lot of room for diverse representation in children’s literature, my daughter’s shelves look, feel, and sound much different than mine did.”

love makes a family; books as a point of connectionSome of those books she added to her home library include Love Makes A Family by Sophie Beer, Grandmother Spider by Geri Keams, The Making of Butterflies by Zora Neale Hurston and adapted by Ibram X. Kendi, Change Sings by Amanda Gorman, Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal, Dreamers by Yuyi Moralez, and Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love.

Sarah believes that having access to these and other books that showcase different experiences, perspectives, and opportunities is incredibly important. 

“Books offer an outlet and point of connection [for kids] to explore their unique interests and self-identity outside of their caregivers,” Sarah says. “I think about how validating it is for young kids today to read books like Julian is a Mermaid, which fully embraces self-expression and shows that there’s space and beauty in exploring and expressing your unique self.”

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