The Latina Book Club begins its celebration of Latinx Heritage Month with Juanita Gandara, Educational Consultant, Children’s Book Author and Founder of an anti-bulling program. Juanita has come up with a great character that transcends literature and has become a role model for young minds. We are in awe of her work. All we can say is – Bravo!
Welcome to The Latina Book Club. How are you coping with the Covid pandemic? Are you going out? If so, what was the first place you visited once the quarantine was lifted?
Juanita: I have been coping well overall despite the sudden changes we have all have had to adapt to. For myself, going virtually has been the biggest challenge. Fortunately, for myself, I consider myself a very resourceful and capable individual when it comes to learning and never gives up! I rarely go out but if I do, it is to do my grocery shopping, occasional trips to the post office, etc. The first place I visited abiding strictly by the Covid-19 guidelines was to my favorite restaurant Applebees to celebrate the completion of our 3rd book, Zoila's 3 Tricks, to Avoid Getting Sick! Remember, I have an amazing co-author, Mark Bowles, PHD.
Tell us about your co-author, Mark Bowles, PHD.
Juanita: Glad you asked. Mark is part of what I call my miracle story! I met him over the phone and was introduced to him by a colleague and the rest is history. He ended up having his own publishing company Belle History, and was a history professor with 16 books of his own. I was the first person he wrote a children's book with.
Please introduce us to Zoila the Zebra. How did she come to you? what is Zoila's dream? What are some of her WOW (words of wisdom)?
Juanita: Zoila the Zebra came to me in what I call my miracle story! In a nutshell, I was introduced to Mr. Mark Bowles, PHD over the phone thruough a mutual colleague and he simply asked me the following questions. Ms. Gandara, would you consider writing a book? If so, what would the book be about? What would you want to tell the whole world? That is when I knew I wanted to leave my parent's family legacy behind while teaching all stakeholders involved that WE CAN ALL STILL HELP TURN A VERY NEGATIVE SITUATION ON BULLYING INTO A MORE POSITIVE ONE!
Then, that is when Zoila was
born! I've always loved zebras and the pattern they carry because they
are very unique. I've always felt I have always been told I'm unique,
especially by my mamacita (may she rest in peace). She would always whisper
to her elderly resident friends, look, that's my youngest girl, the different one! LOL I used to get a kick out of it all the time and took it as
Zoila's dream is to help EMPOWER, EDUCATE AND ENCOURAGE future authors, promote family literacy and educate anyone willing to listen and learn that there really is a way to Promote a Chain Reaction of Kindness = Bullies No More! through her 5 WOWs (Words of Wisdom). They are:
a) Follow the Golden Rule - Treat others the way you want to be treated!
b) Be your best self - be humble, kind and share your wealth!
c) If you feel angry, STOP AND THINK! (Before you open your mouth, use your hands or feet).
d) Communication is Key!
e) Be a good listener.
We understand that you are a retired educator and are now living your 2nd dream. Tell us about your foundation and your anti-bullying campaign. How are you partnering with the schools? Is the pandemic slowing down your efforts to introduce Zoila to other cities/ states?
Juanita: My foundation consists of 30 years total experience. 10 years bilingual teacher/20 years as a school counselor (Prek thru 8th grades). My SEL Anti-bullying Program Zoila's Words of Wisdom came to be after I retired and had more time to think. It always bothered me to know that this problem on bullying, unfortunately has been always alive and well. I always loved teaching, helping and intervening with students who came to me with these type of concerns. It was both a challenge and a passion for me to help educate students on mediation skills to be able to solve their conflicts. I decided to use my many years of school counseling experience and come up with a short, simple and to the point Anti-bullying program that schools, parents and the community could help implement to hold each other accountable instead of playing the blaming game!
I am partnering with our local school districts through performing virtual author school visits today! Fortunately, I was able to visit many schools before the pandemic hit and therefore my book(s) and anti-bullying program had already been introduced. One of our El Paso School districts purchased our 1st book on Zoila for their summer school reading students! I look forward to continue working alongside our school districts even from afar for now!
I am happy to report that I have been fortunate enough to be able to meet other entrepreneurs with the same vision of small businesses helping small businesses and have been able to take part in various international platforms. Thanks to these platforms, our books have been introduced in Canada, Mexico, California, Florida, Texas, etc.
How many books will be in Zoila's series? what are they about? when will they be published?
Juanita: Funny you should ask, I personally just thought one at the beginning. It was Zoila the Zebra's WOW! published in 2018. Then came, How to Stop Armadillo Tears! published in 2020 and one in the oven as we speak Zoila's 3 Tricks to Help Avoid Getting Sick!
Zoila the Zebra's WOW is about Zoila's journey from Mexico to the U.S. in search of the American Dream. Along the way, she learns to overcome loneliness, experience a new culture and gain confidence in herself a strong leader. Through her acronym of WOW, Zoila lovingly and joyfully expresses her Words of Wisdom. She inspires children to have the courage to do the right thing, treat others with respect and live a bully-free life.
How to Stop Armadillo Tears is the story about an armadillo named Armando who has all these feelings during a very bad day on the school playground when no one wants to be his friend. By reading his story, you can learn about how one heroic animal, Zoila the Zebra, she stops his tears and reveals the wonderfully special abilities that Armando has within him. She becomes his friend and shows all bullies how to open their eyes and celebrate the differences among them.
Does Zoila have a playlist? what is her favorite song?
Juanita: WOW! Yes she does! She has 2 new songs.
How are you and Zoila celebrating Latinx Heritage Month?
Juanita: On Sept 9/Sept 10 we will be participating in a Suicide Prevention Month Our Community Cares Bring Hope Now Event sponsored by United For A Good Cause Inc. Break the silence, talk about it and save a life by being involved in a poetry slam event by reciting one of our favorite Spanish poems on this topic exactly. As you know many bullying situations lead to suicide outcries.
We also plan to read, Zoila the Zebra's WOW! at our local GEMS bookstore virtually on September 19th at 10:30 a.m.
And, Zoila the Zebra will DONATE a 1-hour library visit to an interested school on Zoila the Zebra's WOW! (Words of Wisdom!) to share her journey from MX to US, using puppets and Latin music! Who will be the lucky winner? Email email@example.com for more details.
Please share your contact information for readers to learn more about you and Zoila.
Owner, Zoila the Zebra, LLC
Founder of SEL Anti-Bullying Program