{COMADRES CORNER} Interview with Vanessa Nielsen, Founder of Sol Book Box

To kick off National Reading Month, I interviewed Vanessa Nielsen, founder of Sol Book Box, a children’s book subscription service en español that Amado and I absolutely love. I began following Vanessa’s trajectory and subscribing to her books about three years ago. Each month, we look forward to a beautifully wrapped hardcover book that never disappoints. 

Enjoy,

Lola

Not all Spanish books are created equally, and the founder of Sol Book Box knows this – she researches and vets each book so that parents can spend more time reading and less time looking for quality books. This is a gift that we ask Amado’s grandparents to renew whenever they want to know what he wants and the subscription model provides him with new reading material each month, setting him up for a lifelong love of literature en español!


Interview with Vanessa Nielsen, Founder of Sol Book Box

What was the initial inspiration for you to start Sol Book Box?
I had the idea for Sol Book Box when my oldest daughter was two. We speak only Spanish at home with our kids, and I’m a huuuge reader, so I was always hitting up the library and bookstores to try to find new books in Spanish. But I realized that I kept seeing the same Spanish children’s books over and over again! I wished so badly that someone would just hand me a stack of great books in Spanish every so often so I didn’t have to obsessively read Amazon reviews to try to figure out if a book was any good, haha. And then I figured if I was doing all of this research to find great books already, I might as well share my finds with other parents who were in the same boat!

How would you describe Sol Book Box to someone who has never heard of it?
Sol Book Box is a subscription service that makes reading en español easy by bringing you a carefully curated Spanish children’s book each month, sending stories that celebrate bilingual/bicultural familias. We carefully research and vet each book that we send out, so that parents can spend more time reading with their kids, and less time looking for quality books to read. Reading to and with kids in Spanish helps them become truly bilingual by modeling correct pronunciation and grammar and by increasing their vocabulary!

Please walk us through a typical day in your shoes managing Sol Book Box and your three chiquitas.
I’m one of those moms that thrives on routine! My two oldest daughters (5 and 2) go to preschool two days a week, so I use those mornings to get some work done while the baby (8 months) naps. If they’re all home, mornings are when we leave the house (crucial to my sanity!!). Sometimes it’s a big adventure, like the children’s museum, but a lot of times it’s a Costco run or other errands where I just have them tag along. In the afternoons I always have them take naps (the two youngest) and have quiet time. Not only does this give us all a little break (which I use to work for another hour or two), but it’s amazing to see the creative things my oldest daughter creates during quiet time! Can’t recommend this enough!

We always hang out outside after that until it’s time for the dinner, baths, bed routine because I think spending time in the sunshine and nature (even if it’s just the nature in our backyard) is crucial to our health. I’ve been intentional about keeping our schedule pretty open while the kids are still so little, since my priority is for us to spend a lot of time together and really foster those deep bonds of friendship between the girls. I think it’s working. 

Once all the kids are in bed, my partner Josh and I tackle the house which is normally trashed by then, usually do a little more work, and hopefully hang out with each other for at least a while before bed.

What are three of your all-time favorite children’s books?
Ahh, this is almost like asking me to pick a favorite child! These three came to mind first though:
1. La siesta perfecta by Pato Mena
2. Alma y cómo obtuvo su nombre by Juana Martinez-Neal
3. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

Why is it important for you to raise bilingual bebés?
You know, I think about this all the time, since my work is also helping OTHER parents raise bilingual bebés. One big motivation is the way bilingualism builds brain power: research shows that learning a second language at an early age stimulates brain development, expands cognitive abilities, and drives positive academic outcomes. Other studies have pointed to the fact that bilingual people are more empathetic and have better mental health.

But I think just as importantly, what I value about bilingualism is the increased ability to CONNECT that it gives us. Our children have the luxury of being able to communicate with their grandparents, other relatives and entire other countries in their native languages, allowing for deeper familial and cultural bonds. In a country (and world) that feels so fractured, I think anything that helps us connect to other humans is the key to healing and understanding.

Share a recent accomplishment or success that makes you proud.
Sol Book Box celebrated its third anniversary this winter, but just before then I had actually put the business up for sale. I was feeling exhausted (I’m sure having a tiny baby had a lot to do with that) and thought that maybe someone else could so a better job growing the business. But in the process of getting the business ready to sell and meeting with potential buyers, I fell back in love with it and decided to keep it after all! So this may sound funny, but I’m proud of the fact that I recommitted to this beautiful thing that I’ve built and had the confidence in myself to take it to the next level.

This is one of Amado’s favorite books. I learned so many new Spanish words while reading it together, too!

Please share three goals or projects you would like to accomplish in 2020.
1. I’ve been working on a project that will help families who want to speak Spanish to their kids, but are struggling (maybe they’re out of the habit, maybe only one parent speaks Spanish, maybe they’re worried because their own Spanish isn’t perfect, etc.). I’m hoping to launch sometime this spring and am having so much fun creating it.

2. I want to grow Sol Book Box. I hit the brakes last year after I had the baby, but hopefully will have a little more time to devote now that she’s a little older.

3. I’d love to spend a few weeks in a different country with our kids this summer!

Describe a challenge you’re currently facing as a business owner.
When I started Sol Book Box, I had one kid. Now I have three! I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t do it alone. I made my first hire this year and it was nerve-wracking, but it’s been a life-saver (and was LONG overdue). My challenge is now to grow a team that will help me scale!

If you could travel anywhere next summer, where would it be?
I’ve always wanted to go to Thailand! But I’d also be 100% happy with France or Mexico (both of those are much more likely prospects).

What are three must-haves you always pack when traveling?
1. A book
2. A baby-carrier/wrap/sling so we can all be on-the-go for adventures
3. Pretty pajamas (always feels luxurious to me to sleep in something beautiful)

What’s something you’re currently obsessed with?
Oils for my face! Grapeseed, Jojoba, Argan, give me allll the oils so I can smear them on myself and have the skin of a cherub! (I obviously live in the desert).

What’s one of your favorite Mexican dishes?
Enchiladas rojas!! These are also really easy to get wrong, so when a restaurant (or person) does them right, I hear the angels singing hallelujah. 🙂

What are some of your favorite accounts to follow on Instagram?
I love yours, Lola! I also love @busytoddler (for simple kid activities) with all my heart, and @weallgrowlatina for keeping up with all the amazing things happening in our community. Oh, and @cleowade when I want someone to throw down wisdom!


Get more inspiration from Vanessa on Instagram @solbookbox and check out her subscription service at Sol Book Box.

Photos via Sol Book Box

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Categories: Comadres Corner, Inspiring Interviews

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