(Written by: Phylisha Chaidez, media, communications and journalism student)
Many mothers read to their young children — Perla Solorio writes for hers as well.
Combining her job as a school counselor, her role as a mother and her admiration for the Spanish language, Solorio created her company, Libros For Small Hands. The company focuses on promoting early biliteracy, increasing parent engagement and fostering college readiness for young children.
“I loved reading books, but I never thought I’d be writing a book,” Solorio said.
She wanted to pay homage to Fresno State and showcase her love for the University in her first book, “Fresno State: First Words/Primeras Palabras,” which was released in October. This book is the first installment in a series of bilingual, college readiness children’s books Solorio plans to release. The book takes readers on a tour of the Fresno State campus using introductory words.
“I thought it would be very special for me to create something that is personalized with Fresno State, like taking a tour of different areas here on the campus,” Solorio said. “Sometimes we don’t start talking to our kids about the University or college until high school or junior high. It could be early as ages 0 to 3. We can get really creative about it.”
Growing up, Solorio always strived for her best and was academically driven. She recalled when she was younger she would grow impatient on the weekends or holidays wanting school to start again.
“I’d be that student that I’d come home and do my homework, you know, read in my spare time,” Solorio said. “I’ve always loved school.”
As the second oldest sibling in a family of nine and a first-generation college graduate, Solorio did not initially know the proper steps to access higher education. She didn’t know the first thing about applying for college or how her family was going to be able to afford it.
“It was a little scary because financially I was like, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to pay for college. Maybe we’re going to get to this point, but how are we going to pay for it?’” Solorio said.
Solorio credits her counselor at Avenal High School for helping her navigate the college application process, as well as the scholarships she received at Fresno State. Her counselor inspired her so much that she wanted to go into the counseling profession.
Solorio earned a bachelor’s degree in social work and a master’s in school counseling from Fresno State. She described the professors and her fellow colleagues in her cohort as her family. “It really just goes beyond going to school, getting your degree and leaving. It really was a place I can call home,” she said.
Solorio is now counseling at the same middle school she graduated from, helping students who are in the same shoes she once wore. “I went through the same classrooms or hallways and being able to be an advocate for them, as well, that’s very powerful and very meaningful to be there with our community,” Solorio said.
While reading stories to her 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son, Solorio discovered the lack of availability in bilingual children’s books and decided to create her own.
After a two-year process of creating Libros For Small Hands, Solorio first book is beginning to impact the community. The book prompted some parents she knows of to take their families on a physical tour of the campus.
“Families have allowed us into their home,” Solorio said. “That’s really neat to be able to connect, not only with the reading but bringing them to the actual campus and getting a feel of being here at Fresno State that has been pretty awesome to see.”
Solorio’s daughter gets excited every time they visit the campus. “Hearing my daughter say, ‘Mom, can we read? Podemos leer, Fresno State?’ I never imagined my little 3-year old speaking higher ed.,” Solorio said.