Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Welcome back, MCA readers! Thank you for joining us for another interview in our ongoing series. For this interview, we were able to speak with Ana Guzmán, co-founder of the Mom’s Choice Award-winning company, Binibi! Binibi creates bilingual books for children that include English translations to allow readers to follow along and sounds on every page to enrich their reading experience. Binibi‘s enchanting stories and nursery rhymes are illustrated with bright, beautiful visuals. The content is vetted by early education specialists and crafted with rhyme and repetition to encourage language development. Additional educational material is included throughout the stories, including counting elements, sounds, and more. Keep reading to find out more about Ana Guzmán, and her award-winning company, Binibi!
MCA: Hi Ana, thank you so much for joining us today, and congratulations on your Mom’s Choice Award! There are so many advantages to bilingual children’s books, the most important being the fact that they simultaneously help children gain proficiency in two languages at the same time. When children read books in their native language, along with a second language, it helps clarify the meaning of words. The beauty of The Collection Bundle by Binibi is that it not only shows both languages but also speaks the words, allowing children to both see and hear how the language is spoken! I’d like to first start the interview by having you introduce yourself to our readers. Tell us about yourself!
Ana: My name is Ana Guzmán and I am the co-founder of Binibi. I am originally from El Salvador but I currently live in Miami with my husband and 2.5-year-old daughter. I grew up speaking two languages – Spanish at home and English at school. Being bilingual has given me so many opportunities.
When my daughter was born, I knew I wanted her to be bilingual but I had no idea what to do. Like many parents, I turned to books and found that there was a gap in the market for dual language products for kids at their earliest ages. Determined to solve this problem, my partner, Luciana, and I launched Binibi. We make bilingual sound books for babies and toddlers that are designed for parents like us to have a fun and easy way to introduce Spanish at home, from day one, when the child’s brain is most ripe for language development.
Before Binibi, I built a career working in tech, working in roles ranging from business development to strategy and operations. I have a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and an MBA from Columbia. When I’m not working you can usually find me cooking!
MCA: Well we thank you for passing along your knowledge and experience to younger generations with each Binibi book! Tell us about Binibi and the company’s mission.
Ana: Our mission is to support bilingualism at home at the earliest ages by creating beautiful products parents can use at home with their children to practice a second language.
Binibi makes bilingual sound books for children 0-3. Our first collection consists of four books, two of which feature popular nursery rhymes and two of which feature fun sounds. Our books are designed to provide parents with an easy way to introduce a second language at home. The audio in our books is stimulating for babies and provides them with a language input at the age when their brain is most absorbent and ripe for language development.
Binibi seeks to fill the gap in the availability of dual-language products for children. Books are an essential language development tool, and also a great resource for parents early on as they seek to stimulate their children off-screen. Books play an essential role in parent-child bonding, routines, and most notably, language development.
MCA: How did the company come about? Why did you start it?
Ana: Luciana, my partner, and I both grew up in El Salvador and were fortunate enough to be raised bilingual, with Spanish as a first language and English as our second. This opened up enormous opportunities for us, including going to college in the U.S. where we started our careers.
When our kids were born two years ago, we knew we wanted to give them the same bilingual advantage but couldn’t find the right books, toys or resources to support us. As we experimented with different tools, we realized that our babies loved books that had animal and other fun sounds – and so we started importing interactive books from Spain. This wasn’t sustainable as we paid $50+ for them and waited about 45+ days to receive them, which our babies then proceeded to put in their mouths or spill food all over. The selection was quite limited too, and after feeling this pain point for a few months, we came up with the idea to combine the types of sound books our kids loved with audio in Spanish.
Before deciding to build the prototype, we spent time validating our idea by talking to other parents. We initially started with the idea to create products in Spanish, but after speaking to many sets of parents, we found that parents wanted dual-language products because in many cases, one of the parents wasn’t a native speaker of the target language and in other cases, neither of them were. We also found that every parent we were speaking to was reading to their child, and 77% was reading to their child in a second language, and most of these people were importing books from their target language country. It made no sense!
We are working on this idea because we know that our product is solving a real problem that we understand deeply.
MCA: Tell us about each of the sound books that can be found within Binibi’s The Collection Bundle!
Ana: Binibi’s collection includes two musical books, “Los Pollitos Dicen & Other Nursery Rhymes” and “¿Estrellita Dónde Estás? & Other Lullabies” as well as two sound books, “Visiting-Visitando La Playa” and “Visiting- Visitando La Granja” which feature five fun sounds, one on each page.
Our board books are written in English and Spanish and contain buttons with audio on every page. We worked with early education experts to ensure appropriate content and that our graphics and audio have been created by Latin American artists. All of our books are also accompanied by digital reading guides you can find on our website.
The engaging songs provide rhyme and repetition for effective language learning while the animal and beach sounds reinforce word-sound associations.
MCA: Can you share with us a bit more about the importance of introducing a second language from an early age?
Ana: It is so important to introduce a second language early on because that is when a baby’s brain is most ripe for language development. We know from studying how language develops that babies will learn their first 150-300 words in their first two years of life and that their first year of life revolves around sounds. At a younger age, they have a greater ability to process sounds and then mimic them, making the adoption of a language easier. We also know that the earlier you start introducing a second language, the more likely the chances of success in adopting it.
MCA: Why is reading so important for language learning?
Ana: Reading books with children have a tremendous amount of benefits for language development, primarily because it increases their exposure to vocabulary they may not hear in their everyday life.
Additionally, through reading stories over and over again, your child is getting the repetition which we know to be one of the most important elements of language learning, while also creating quality time that allows for parent-child bonding. The more exposure a child has to new vocabulary, the more they will grasp the meaning of those new words and retain them to eventually use them on their own. As a parent reads with their child, the meaning of words becomes clearer because parents can use pictures, sounds and context to demonstrate what a word means, expanding their child’s vocabulary in the process.
MCA: What are the main tips you would give parents on how to effectively read and engage with their children for language learning?
Ana: The main tip I would give parents is to have a dialogue with their child as they read and to make every reading opportunity different and exciting.
As you read, describe what’s going on in the pictures, comment about aspects of the illustrations or ask your child what they think is happening. Though you can read the same book over and over again with your little one, each time you pick up that book can be a completely different reading experience depending on the conversations you initiate.
Binibi books were designed with this goal in mind: to facilitate a multifacet reading experience that allows parents to explore language in a variety of ways. The elaborate images in our books were purposely created with different details that parents can explore with their children to start a dialogue every time. Our pages are packed with learning elements, and we break this down for parents in our online education guides!
MCA: What is next for Binibi?
Ana: So much! We are just getting started. We’ll be releasing two more titles by the end of the year and plan to work on more in 2023 as well as resources for parents around bilingualism. Our goal is to support parents everywhere in raising bilingual children from day one so we’ll continue to create products and resources to support all families in this effort.
MCA: That is so exciting, please keep us posted on when they are released!
You can learn more about Ana Guzmán and her award-winning books, The Collection Bundle by Binibi by visiting her MCA Shop page.