5 Parent Entrepreneurs Who Built Brands to Boost Kids' Literacy Skills

When they couldn’t find bilingual books that felt authentic, these five moms and one dad created businesses focused on getting little Latinos reading.

Mom Reading Book To Daughters Priscilla Gragg

The Shopkeepers

Celene Navarrete and Chiara Arroyo; Los Angeles, CA

Their Work Baby

LA Librería, the nation’s only bookstore specializing in children’s lit from Latin America and Spain.

In the Beginning

Navarrete, a mexicana, and Arroyo, an española, met when they volunteered at their kids’ school book fair. (Navarrete has two children, ages 5 and 10; Arroyo’s kids are 8, 10, and 12.) “It’s a Spanish-immersion school, so we wanted really good choices in Spanish—except we couldn’t find any vendor who had that,” says Navarrete. “So we pulled together our own list from publishers we knew in Mexico.” Arroyo was a long-time editor and journalist; Navarrete is a college business professor. “The first year, we had two little tables, and we sold out. Pretty soon, people were asking if we could do that for their book fair,” says Arroyo. As their fame spread and requests started coming in from other areas of the country, the two reached out to publishers in Latin America and Spain and made their wares available online. Then, when they needed a space to meet with clients, they opened a brick-andmortar bookstore, allowing them to host events to promote the books by inviting authors, musicians, and illustrators. “It’s amazing how diverse a community we’ve been able to build,” Navarrete says. “No matter your background, economic status, or where you come from, LA Librería is a common space for those raising bilingual children.”

Scariest Moment

“Committing to the bookstore—at that point you have rent and inventory,” Arroyo says . “But every step along the way, we’d been led by demand. Look how far we’ve come from just two tables!”

Best Get-'em Reading Tip

“Seek out books that establish a connection: They might be culturally relevant or feature a main character your child identifies with,” Navarrete says. “Or, if there’s a genre he enjoys reading, expose your kid to two versions of the same book, one in each language.” 

The Storytellers

Susie Jaramillo and Nuria Santamaría Wolfe; Brooklyn, NY, and San Francisco, CA

Their Work Baby

Encantos Media Studios, an education and entertainment company that publishes bilingual board books

In the Beginning

Jaramillo was a creative director with more than a decade of high-profile advertising work behind her when she had an inspiration for a line of board books. A colleague suggested she meet his wife, an El Salvador– born social-media executive, then at Twitter, with an interest in education. “We realized we had complementary skills and could do this together,” says Jaramillo, who was raised in the U.S. by a Venezuelan father and an Irish-Ecuadorian mother. “Susie was into the creative side, while I had the sales, marketing, and business strategy,” says Santamaría Wolfe, who had spent 12 years in digital marketing. “It was perfect timing.” The fruit of that meeting was Encantos, which made its debut last year with a bilingual (one side English, the other Spanish) line of Latino nursery-rhyme-inspired board books for preschoolers. “My now 5-year-old was my guinea pig, because she was just the right age,” says Jaramillo, who also has an 8-year-old son. “It’s lovely to see her read everything!” 

Biggest Moment

"Just a couple of weeks ago, we met with Target, which is really focused on and knows the Latina customer,” says Santamaría Wolfe. “It was hugely validating that the company loves Canticos. And this October, we’re going to be carried by Target. Susie sang a song featured in our books to them, so maybe that’s what did it!”

Best Get-'em Reading Tip

“The evening is a sleepy time, so you want a book,” says Santamaría Wolfe. “But reading isn’t just on the page: Other times, like sitting in the doctor’s office, you might want to pull out an app that lets them interact with the words. Reading can be three-dimensional—and it’s all good for our kids.”

The Subscription Mavens

Jazmin and Shawn Turley; Salt Lake City, UT

Their Work Baby

My Spanish Sorpresa, a subscription service delivering Spanish-language and bilingual children’s books to your door.

In the Beginning

Jazmin Turley spent the last months of her pregnancy in 2016 obsessively tracking down Spanish-language books to fill her son’s shelves. “I wanted culturally authentic books that would also teach him something about Latino culture,” says Turley, who was raised speaking only Spanish to her Costa Rican parents. “But most of what I found were books originally written in English with translations that didn’t even make sense. I said to my husband, ‘I’m positive I’m not the only mom having a hard time with this.’ ” Then, inspiration struck: She’d create a delivery service. “I wanted moms to have a way to automatically receive high-quality books without even thinking about it.” She partnered with her husband, Shawn, and met their goal of getting the business up and running by 2017.

Working With Hubby

“We’re polar opposites—he’s all things tech, and I’m more people-oriented—so I thought we might butt heads,” says Turley. “But instead of focusing on how we think differently, we’ve been able turn our differences into strengths. It’s helped us grow a lot together, as a company and a family.” They’re now hoping to expand by creating an online community for parents that will feature educational materials related to the books, as well as videos and tutorials.

Best Get-'em Reading Tip

“Sometimes we put our 1-year-old son’s toys away and leave books lying around instead. We’re trying to get him to think of books as toys, as something fun. He’ll pick one up and turn the pages and babble.”