My grandmother taught me to read before I was three by writing the names of plants and flowers on the earth with a stick. Reading and nature became very intertwined for me. The joy of reading a book was increased if I could read it outdoors, especially high up in the branches of a large tree. From that favorite hideaway I could also observe the river down below and the world of small animals living in and around the river.
My grandmother and one of my uncles were great storytellers. And every night, at bedtime, my father told me stories he invented to explain to me all that he knew about the history of the world. With all these storytellers around me, it is not a surprise that I like to tell stories. And it was a great joy when one of the bedtime stories that I made up for some of my favorite nieces became a beautiful book, The Unicorn of the West!
My growing-up years were a fun and exciting time. I have compiled some of the stories of my childhood in Cuba, as well as stories that I heard from my family when I was a child, in the books Where the Flame Trees Bloom and Under the Royal Palms.
Besides writing children's books, I am a professor at the University of San Francisco. I also work in schools with teachers, children, and parents. The feelings that children experience when teachers do not acknowledge their real name led me to write My Name is María Isabel. All my life I have had a difficult time getting people to acknowledge that my first name is Alma Flor, so I know personally how this feels.
I enjoy writing many different kinds of books. I Love Saturdays… Y Domingos! portrays a young girl who has two very different sets of grandparents, like my own grandchildren do. I also enjoy retelling the old tales that I loved so much as a child. That is why I wrote The Three Golden Oranges, so that children in the United States can get to know one of the most beautiful of the traditional Spanish stories.
Knowing two languages has made the world richer for me. I believe that all children should be given the opportunity of learning two or more languages when they are young, and can do so easily. For that reason I am delighted that most of my books are published both in English and in Spanish. And it makes me even happier that my own daughter has done many of the translations of my books.
Alma Flor Ada, an authority on multicultural and bilingual education, is the recipient of the 2012 Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, and in 2014 she was honored by the Mexican government with the prestigious OHTLI Award. She lives in California, and you can visit her at AlmaFlorAda.com.