Multicultural Stories Grab Students and Educators

Midvale, UT, USA — Students and teachers love books with minority characters. For author Karl Beckstrand, it’s a lesson learned. School demand has grown for Beckstrand’s activity books, which feature black, white, Asian and Hispanic characters and come in Spanish and bilingual versions. Having protagonists that appeal to broad groups increases interest in the subjects–which include astronomy, mysteries with finding activities, nature and animals–even a cookbook for kids.

Families get instruction too–with stories and activities. This fall  Beckstrand will present his multicultural books at three book fairs. Beckstrand has had titles in Amazon’s top ten large print children’s books and their top ten Spanish children’s titles. She Doesn’t Want the Worms! A Mystery was named among the top ten books of 2011 by ForeWord Reviews Magazine and was featured in School Library Journal. Beckstrand also offers ebooks and a biingual app: Sounds in the House!

Beckstrand is writing a non-fiction series about immigrants overcoming obstacles. He hopes these true accounts will inspire people of all backgrounds to reach for good goals, regardless of circumstances. He regularly speaks about writing and publishing to classes, schools and other organizations. Beckstrand’s books are distributed via: Ingram, Brodart, Baker & Taylor, Follett/BWI, Amazon/Kindle, Bn/Nook, Sony/ibooks/Kobo, and Premiobooks.com

Original posted 2/7/2012 11:17 PM

Perpetual Education

In April, 2001, then President, Gordon B. Hinckley, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced in the church’s 171st annual (world) General Conference that the church was going to establish a Perpetual Education Fund for young adult members whose access to education and job training was limited by cost or other circumstances. The program was to be modeled after Brigham Young’s Perpetual Emigration Fund of the late nineteenth century, which helped bring 26,000 Latter-day Saint converts (mostly from Europe) to Utah Territory (Utah was not made a state until 1896) (Deseret News).

President Hinckley was concerned, as he visited members in various parts of the world, that many of them (including returned missionaries) were unable to fill their potential—or even adequately meet the needs of their families—because the cost of education was prohibitive. “We don’t want to give away money and make people weak,” he told the program’s future director (LDS Church News). “‘Where there is widespread poverty among our people, we must do all we can to help them to lift themselves, to establish their lives upon a foundation of self-reliance that can come of training” (LDS Conference Report).Since LDS ministers are lay clergy (non-paid), even these must have gainful employment outside their church service; and the standard of living in many states where the church operates was not conducive to job training or learning.

The educational loan fund was to be established initially by volunteer donations (which quickly poured in from all over the world), the interest of which is loaned out and then replaced as employed graduates paid back their loans into the fund. Early Mormon converts whose immigration was facilitated by the Perpetual Emigration Fund worked to restore monies into the Fund to assist other converts in their journey. Today, Perpetual Education Fund loan recipients work to replace what they have used so that others may benefit.

In 2001, the year of its creation, the PEF was offered in Mexico, Peru, and Chile. “The potential for failure might have loomed as the PEF’s newly appointed leaders rushed to begin providing loans by autumn of 2001, as President Hinckley had directed. Outside of the prophet [Hinckley]’s inspired outline there existed no business plan, no detailed proposal. The program was organized using the text of President Hinckley’s conference talk as its charter. Hundreds of loan applications were flooding into Church headquarters even as directors were being called and the basic structure of the program was being formed.

“But miracles were already taking place. Within the first year, millions of dollars had been donated to the program. Several individuals whose backgrounds made them uniquely qualified for the work of the PEF were immediately available to serve as volunteer directors. The infrastructure necessary to support the PEF globally had already been laid in the form of Church Educational System’s institute programs and Church Employment Resource Centers [around the world]. Things fell into place quickly, providing the program with what President Hinckley reported in April 2002 to be a ‘solid foundation’” (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

Education has always been a paramount objective of the Latter-day Saints. After building temples, the church has typically sought to establish schools as its next highest priority. Church founder, Joseph Smith, Jr. taught, “whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:18). LDS scripture also instructs, “Seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118). “In part, this means that Mormons recognize a kind of learning that incorporates both intellect and spiritual insight. They also acknowledge that these are not unrelated: spiritual understanding, for instance, is necessary to give rational inquiry its ultimate purpose. Moreover, Latter-day Saints affirm that faith and reason are not fundamentally hostile to each other” (LDS Newsroom).

Brigham Young taught that Mormons embrace truth regardless of the source. “It is our duty and calling, … to gather every item of truth and reject every error. Whether a truth be found with professed infidels, or with the Universalists, or the Church of Rome, or the Methodists, the Church of England, the Presbyterians, the Baptists, the Quakers, the Shakers, or any other of the various and numerous different sects and parties, all of whom have more or less truth, it is the business of the Elders of this Church … to gather up all the truths in the world pertaining to life and salvation, to the Gospel we preach, … to the sciences, and to philosophy, wherever it may be found in every nation, kindred, tongue, and people and bring it to Zion” (Discourses of Brigham Young 1940,248).

In the ten years since its inception, more than 50,000 people in 450 countries have received PEF loans. “As of February 2011, 90 percent of those who have sought work after completing their schooling have found employment. Some 78 percent of those now employed say that their current employment is an improvement over what they had before receiving schooling, a figure expected to improve with time. The average income after schooling for PEF participants is three to four times greater than income prior to schooling, representing a vast improvement in economic status” (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

“Today the program is made up of 47 percent men and 53 percent women. Of the men, 80 percent of the participants are returned missionaries and 82 percent of all participants work while going to school. On average, education and skills training takes 2.6 years, and the average total loan for one participant is about $1,800” (LDS Church News).

As more people donate to the fund, it expands to more countries. And the loans impact many more lives than just those who receive education. Rex Allen, PER Director of Training and Communications, explained: “As each participant marries and begins a family, the number of people blessed doubles, triples, and continues to multiply into the hundreds of thousands” (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Loan recipients are able to give time and means to other worthy endeavors—including sharing the blessings of education with others.

“‘This program is growing very, very rapidly, and it really is quite a challenge to keep up with it,’ according to Elder John Carmack, PEF Director. Each area in the Church has its own committee to screen PEF applications. More than 98 percent of the applications that reach PEF headquarters in Salt Lake City are able to garner final approval.

“Elder Carmack estimates two-thirds of PEF recipients are current with or have completed the payback of their loans. ‘We would love to have 100 percent payback,’ he said. ‘These are people most of whom never even had a bank account. They have never been involved in a business transaction or signing a promissory note. But they’re paying back better and better all the time. For example, those who just joined the program in the last 12 months, their paying-back percentage is something like 88 percent. These people are showing their integrity, and we keep working to move that up’” (LDS Church News).

Still in its infancy, the PEF has much territory to cover (the PEF currently operates in 45 of the 175 countries and territories in which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a presence). It is difficult to estimate how many of the more than 14 million Latter-day Saints have need of education assistance.

The LDS Church Welfare program, which focuses on people’s temporal needs and helping them be self-reliant, began as a resource for church members only (today, church membership is not a requirement). Additionally, Latter-Day Saint Charities regularly delivers food, clothing, medical and other disaster relief, as needed, around the globe. As the PEF matures, the day may come when anyone who desires to improve their situation may apply for such a loan.

REFERENCES

Deseret News. Perpetual Education Fund a Success, but with Challenges.www.deseretnews.com/article/705380579/Perpetual-Education-Fund-a-success-but-with-challenges.html?pg=2(accessed Nov. 22, 2011)

Askar, Jamshid. 2009. Perpetual Education Fund is Making a Difference. LDS Church News, Sept. 11. www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/57887/Perpetual-Education-Fund-is-making-a-difference.html  (accessed Nov. 22, 2011)

LDS Conference Report, April, 2001. The Perpetual Education Fund.http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,49-1-183-21,00.html (accessed Nov. 22, 2011)

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Perpetual Education Fund Fulfills Prophetic Promises. lds.org/church/news/perpetual-education-fund-fulfills-prophetic-promises?lang=eng(accessed Nov. 22, 2011)

Doctrine & Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

LDS Newsroom. Mormons and Education: An Overview. newsroom.lds.org/article/mormons-and-education-an-overview (accessed Nov. 22, 2011)

Widtsoe, John A. Discourses of Brigham Young. Deseret Book, 1941.LDS Church News. Celebrating Ten Years of the Perpetual Education Fund.

http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/61195/Celebrating-10-years-of-the-Perpetual-Education-Fund.html (accessed Nov. 22, 2011)

PEF.LDS.ORG.PEF Success Stories. pef.lds.org/pef/southafrica_shirley?locale=eng(accessedNov. 22, 2011)

See also: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASteMXNHN-8 

class=”MsoNormal”>http://pef.lds.org/pef/home?locale=eng

Originally posted by Karl Beckstrand 2/7/2012 11:02 PM

The Press

My apologies, this isn’t about book presses or publishing; it’s about the news. I don’t know which is worse: agenda-driven propaganda or the reporters who perpetuate it.

Dear Reporters: before you grace us with your venerable ignorance, please read history. You are supposed to monitor government (not be monitored by them, not parrot them) to protect the people. –And you wonder why Americans get their news from late night comedians?
Dear Less-informed Citizens: Beware sound bites, video clips, and tweets where full context is chopped. Even high-information “news” people often offer short snippets that mislead for their own objectives. Your best bet is to get your information from multiple sources.  https://pressfreedomfoundation.org/ End rant. Thank you.

U.S. Spanish book sales climb

Midvale, UT, USA — Publishing is evolving and crossing borders like never before, as is children’s literature. Amazon.com’s recent entry into Spain and the explosion of Spanish-language ebook platforms are indicators of the next big publishing market. 

Sales of Spanish language books in the United States demonstrate significant demand–including for children’s literature in Spanish. Bilingual author Karl Beckstrand has seen demand grow for his Spanish-language and bilingual picture books and e-books. Beckstrand has had three titles on Amazon’s “Hot New Releases” in Spanish list. His Spanish titles outsell the English versions, though most of his titles come with an English/Spanish pronunciation guide. Positive national reviews by the Horn Book blog and ForeWord Reviews don’t hurt either.

Customers are not all likely to be to Spanish-speakers. It may be that individuals, schools, and families agree with Amazon: an additional language is a good idea. Considering that native Spanish speakers are more common than native English speakers worldwide (the only other native language more common than Spanish is Mandarin, according to Time and Wikipedia), Amazon’s lead should be followed. Beckstrand’s picture books may be a good start.

Premio Publishing & Gozo Books has been delighting families and educators since 2004. Our multicultural app, non-fiction stories and biographies, ebook mysteries, and activity books (geography, astronomy, Spanish & bilingual, finding/counting, opposites, animals and nature, and a kid’s cookbook) have diverse characters in funny, engaging, vivid color. Nationally-lauded (School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews) our educational stories capture attention and create repeat readers. Not about ethnic or racial diversity, they simply feature black, white, Asian, Hispanic and mixed-race children–with family values like courage, sharing, and giving. Find them via: Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble/Nook, Brodart, EBSCO, Follett/Title Wave, Ingram, Kindle/Amazon, Mackin, Overdrive, Quality Books, Sony/iBooks/Kobo/Android, and Premiobooks.com (SEE online books); a gift of laughter, learning & family fun for ages 2 and up (because bedtime should never put parents to sleep!).

Original Post by Karl Beckstrand: 11/22/2011 9:26 AM

Laugh & Learn

Family time is a big deal. Children absorb values with or without help from the adults in their lives. Sharing the best ideas and values shouldn’t be a chore for parents. Literature and the arts can make family time easy. I like to share ideas that are exciting and fascinating for both kids and adults—and picture books offer both art and literature. I write mostly from my own experiences (and have been doing so since college); but some of my best ideas come from the children in my life. I love to weave clever plots, filled with nuances and wit that make kids (and parents) go back and pour over them again and again.

Growing up in San Jose, California, USA, I didn’t always like to read. Fortunately, my parents enjoyed good books, so eventually I found one that grabbed me. WOW! Books could take me on adventures! Living abroad for a couple of years increased my perspective and gave me a breadth that, I hope, is reflected in my stories.

Since I learn visually, I always want images with my stories to attract and hold attention. My first picture book, “Sounds in the House,” is a rollicking bedtime story on facing fear. The day we were to print, my publisher passed away. With the unexpected crash course in marketing and publishing, I published my next title: “Crumbs on the Stairs – Migas en las escaleras: A Mystery” (in English and Spanish). It has finding, counting and Spanish activities. 

My third book was requested by a publisher in Utah. “Anna’s Prayer” is my first non-fiction book; it’s about my great-great aunt—who emigrated from Sweden at ten years of age (not knowing English)—and what she did when she arrived completely alone at her U.S. destination.
 
“She Doesn’t Want the Worms – Ella no quiere los gusanos” is an activity book mystery (in English, Spanish, or bilingual versions) with a pronunciation guide. The illustrator incorporated lots of juicy surprises and secrets in every page. “Bad Bananas: A Story Cookbook for Kids” is a wisecracking picture book on the short (shelf) life of a bunch of bruisers—with seven easy recipes to save families from “I’m bored” disease. It’s full of laughs and yummy, hands-on fun.

I have never experienced “writer’s block.” Ideas come to me daily—and I love that what I share might make some child somewhere a ravenous reader. Because of e-books and Spanish, English and bilingual versions, I have 21 titles on Amazon.com, plus eight manuscripts ready to go (some just waiting on illustrations) —and files full of ideas. Now I share my stories and adventures as a speaker. It’s fun to inspire children and adult groups to imagine, play, learn and create their own stories.

Ideas can compel us as we absorb them from literature/art, or as we are absorbed by them in giving them a voice. I hope to always be compelled by ideas. To me, that is success.

Posted by Karl Beckstrand at 9/23/2011 11:53 AM

The World

When Communism was about to fall, Francis Fukuyama wrote of a coming “end of history,” because democracy had won and free markets would unify the world via prosperity. 
     A little later, Benjamin Barber wrote of another reality: a coming collision between two hollow ways of living: Jihad and capitalism, “one re-creating ancient sub-national and ethnic borders from within, the other making national borders porous from without.”
     Barber seems a little jaded in his view of these clashing cultures: “…tribe against tribe … a hundred narrowly conceived faiths against every kind of interdependence,” versus, “[the true goal of free markets is] not liberty and the right to vote but well-paying jobs and the right to shop.”  
     While many supposed that “globalization” (information and capitalism) would triumph over tribal backlash, I don’t see national borders or cultures eroding as many have predicted. We can’t even agree on terminology, let alone environmental accords. “Imposing a free market may even have the opposite effect,” writes Barber. “Democracy grows from the bottom up and cannot be imposed from the top down.”
     “Nationalism was once a force of integration and unification …bringing together disparate clans, tribes, and cultural fragments under new, assimilationist flags,” he continues. “The passing of communism has torn away the thin veneer of internationalism … to reveal ethnic [differences]” This clash of traditions (ongoing since the beginning of recorded history) is why mortals will never arrive at a homogeneous sameness, and why it’s not a contest between only two soul-less ways of living. Thank heaven for non-conformity and third options! Hooray for distinct cultures—insofar as they don’t promote hatred and favoritism.
     Seeing the history of tradition, I don’t think we can dismiss it as a phase or a fad to be waited out. My friend from Albania says that as soon as communism fell, her people rebuilt their cathedrals (even though Christians are a minority there).
     It makes sense that government must be local, that it require buy-in and participation, and that cultural and national borders be respected. While I have great hope in the universality of information, Jihad will conquer democratic ideals unless we dying westerners (who refuse to procreate [oops—that’s me, gulp!]) teach the principles of freedom—if not to our children, then to those of the Jihadists. This education cannot take place in an environment of fear, isolation, or bigotry. It will also not occur if all that the rising generation seeks from the worldwide well of knowledge is music, games, and videos.

Fukuyama, Francis. 1989. “The End of History?” The National Interest, Summer.
Barber, Benjamin R. 1992. “Jihad Vs. McWorld” The Atlantic, March.

Posted by Karl Beckstrand at 9/22/2011 9:14 AM

Bad Bananas: A Story Cookbook for Kids

Author interview
Bad Bananas – A Story Cookbook for Kids is a wisecracking picture book on the short (shelf) life of a bunch of bruisers, with seven recipes that kids can make with their families.
P: Who did you write this book for? KB: “This book is for anyone suffering from ‘I’m borrred’ disease (maybe more for their families—as a kind of comic intervention).
P: Where did you get the idea for Bad Bananas? KB: “I just started to get these wisecracking lines about bad bananas–as rebels of the fruit world.”
P: As a children’s author, what made you write a cookbook? KB: “It was my editor’s idea. When she saw the storyline, she thought it would be a perfect activity book with recipes.”
P: There’s a lot of clever word-play in this book, is that intended for adults? KB: “Yes. I think we’ve all read books to kids that were better at putting the adult to sleep. I like to keep my stories fun for adults and kids–I especially like a surprise you don’t expect.”
P: Who did the illustrations? KB: “Jeff Faerber, a New York artist.”
P: Tell us about the illustrations; how did you two come up with the imagery? KB: “I started doodling images of these gang-banger bananas, with sticker tattoos, pierced peels and spiked-hair stems. I got the idea that they would have turf issues with rival bunches (grapes). Jeff Faerber added the red-necked renegades. Then there’s a biker banana and some fun pop-culture allusions…”
P: Tell us a little about the story. KB: “It walks you through the taboo subject of where bananas come from. As the characters take crazy dares and trying silly stunts, you see them mature and you learn how to use them in recipes.” 
P: What recipes come with the story? KB: “Banana cookies, smoothies, pancakes, muffins, fruit salad, banana pudding, plus more recipes on our web site. They’re low sugar, and they’re delicious.”
P: What do you like the most about the story KB: “Aside from the humor and the treats, I really like the message, that even a bad banana can turn out good.”
P: Who do you hope will buy your book? KB: “Anyone who knows a child; even older kids can enjoy the more subtle humor. It’s something fun the family can do together, trying different recipes on different days.”
P: What do you hope that readers will get out of this book? KB: “Family laughs, hands-on fun, and treats!”
P: If you could compare this book to any book out there, which book would it be? KB: “I saw a book about a witch that had a recipe at the end–Bad Bananas has so many elements to discover on each page, I feel it involves the reader much more.”
P: This is your fifth picture book; what other kinds of books do you have? KB: “Funny bedtime stories to help kids overcome fear, Spanish and bilingual books with text and pronunciation guide in one or both languages, a historical non-fiction about a girl—from my family’s history–who immigrated at ten years old, not knowing English, and what she did when she arrived alone at her U.S. destination.”
P: Beckstrand’s books have been favorably reviewed nationwide–including a nod in the Horn Book’s blog review. His first bilingual book: Crumbs on the Stairs – Migas en las escaleras: A Mystery has been purchased by schools and libraries across the country. Most of his stories have minority or bi-racial characters. He has 21 titles on Amazon.com and Kindle (add a review!). His titles are also available via premiobooks.com, Baker & Taylor, Follett Library Resources/BWI Title Wave, bn.com/NOOK, Brodart, Ingram and iTunes/Kobo/Sony. Ask for his books at your favorite bookstore or library.

Posted by Karl Beckstrand at 9/19/2011 12:51 PM

Self-sufficiency

I believe self sufficiency is the greatest threat to humanity. Our thinking that we are the end-all/be-all–our own solution to life’s problems. While technological and scientific progress have catapulted us into new arenas with new tools (and created more challenges), human nature
has not evolved. As a species, we are still pulled toward pride, fear, and selfishness. Surely, some individuals rise above their own personal weaknesses; but it is a catastrophic misjudgment to believe our increased knowledge makes us our own solution … our own gods. Yikes.

Posted by Karl Beckstrand at 9/19/2011 12:47 PM

Siblings

Where would I be without my brothers and sister? Dead, I suppose. Friends come in and out of view–and that’s convenient and fine–but siblings are eternal. They know your history (and often love you in spite of it). Being the youngest, I had brothers and a sister to try the hard things before me and show me they’re doable (or that it’s okay to fail). Sometimes I hated them. We were stingy with one another. I often got put down or left out. But they shared a great deal, including friends. My siblings saved me from being more of a geek than I currently am.

Yeah, they don’t behave the way I want them to (this is a critical lesson for coexisting with other mortals–I pity the kid who lives without a sibling). Who hasn’t wanted to write their family off at some point in life? My siblings have pulled me back time and again. When life got bumpy, Nels, Heather and Chris were my home. They’ve shown me that family is the supreme priority. They have shown me that the world will never satisfy a soul. They gave me new siblings in their spouses. They have saved my life.

My family is my connection to the human family, to all the good that my ancestors gave, to all the good that my siblings and I learn and share with one another. We have the best conversations–sometimes heated–but we learn from one another; and we know we will love one another long after we’ve forgotten any disagreement.

Family is jostling love. Family is forever.

Posted by Karl Beckstrand at 9/15/2011 4:05 PM