BEDFORD-STUYVESANT, Brooklyn — As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, PIX11 is highlighting two Brooklyn-based sisters and early childhood educators of Dominican descent who hope to expose young children to all cultures and backgrounds through their new book, “Travel Con Lola.”
Natalie and Jessenia Rios are the co-founders of Little Lola & Tots, a cultural and educational play space in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“We are very much driven by cultural exploration,” Natalie Rios said. “Most of our programming has been Spanish bilingual because we’re fluent in Spanish.”
Programming at the space is based on empowering children of all ethnic backgrounds and opening their minds to different traditions and languages.
Natalie Rios said cultural education makes for a more well-rounded and sensitive child.
The sisters are first-generation Dominican-Americans. Growing up, they spent their summers in the Dominican Republic with their grandmother.
“Summers in Dominican Republic were amazing but also very humbling,” Jessenia Rios said. “There were times where the lights would go out and all of us kiddos would run to the streets and just play with each other.”
These experiences are shared in their first book, “Travel Con Lola to la Republica Dominicana,” which is dedicated to their grandmother.
The book is written in “Spanglish” and aims to show children that it’s okay to have differences and to accept others.
“We wanted children to see themselves in our book,” Jessenia Rios said.
The sisters want the book to become a series, with the character Lola traveling to different countries and learning about as many cultures as possible.