Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Between the Lines: Healing Journey

by Zinta Aistars
for WMUK 102.1 FM
Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate






Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. (or listen anytime online), on WMUK 102.1 FM, Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guest: Susan Harrison


Susan Harrison

It isn't easy finding the right words when a family member or friend experiences grief or loss. It’s even harder when that person is a child. But Susan Harrison, a writer, musician and puppeteer in Kalamazoo, has found a way to ease the pain and bring about healing by combining her various skills. Her Going on a Journey is a picture book for children that features vivid illustrations by Conrad Kaufman.

“It is really appropriate for any age,” Harrison says. “It can be about losing a loved one, or it can be about any kind of grief someone is experiencing, like bullying or being lonely. If you don’t know what to say, you can offer Going on a Journey as a gift.”

The story and the illustrations take the reader on a puppy's journey as he finds himself lost in the dark woods. The puppy struggles to ...

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Building relationships from the ground up

by Zinta Aistars
Published in SW Michigan's Second Wave Media
June 25, 2015


Israel Flores (Photo by Susan Andress)


You’ll find him on the floor, playing among the children. Israel Flores, family coach for Battle Creek’s Early Childhood Connection since 2011, is happiest there.

Working with children and their parents wasn’t Flores’ first job in the United States. Born in Mexico City, when he immigrated to the U.S. at age 22, Flores first lived in Ann Arbor and worked in the food industry. He moved to Battle Creek around the time he married, and when he heard of a job opening with the Early Childhood Connection (ECC) for a family coach, his heart sang.

"I love working with kids! You could say I’m like a kid myself," he says. "When ECC advertised that they were more interested in finding someone with a passion for working with children rather than experience, I thought I could make an impact."

With his bilingual language skills and first-hand knowledge of the Latino community culture, paired with his knack for working with kids, Flores was hired.

"I’m like a kid magnet," he says. "Sometimes families need that extra support, and I wanted to provide that."

Early Childhood Connections, part of the Calhoun County Great Start Collaborative, provides welcome baby baskets to new parents, home visits, and playgroups for families with children from birth to 5 years old in Battle Creek. Family coaches partner with parents to help them raise children who are safe, healthy, and ready to succeed in school and in life.

Flores, who has since moving to Battle Creek now has two sons of his own (and two dogs), and he says he's sharpened some of his coaching skills with his own family. 

"I work out some of my own emotions as a father with my boys," Flores says. "I don’t go into homes as some kind of professional who knows everything. None of us are better than anyone else. That’s why I sit on the floor, at kid-level, when I go into someone’s home, and I invite parents to sit on the floor, too."

Flores is skilled at connecting with both the children in the home and the parents, helping both sides to connect and enjoy each other’s company. Since beginning his job as a family coach, Flores has ...

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Between the Lines: Building Latvia's Library

by Zinta Aistars
for WMUK 102.1 FM



Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. (or listen anytime online), on WMUK 102.1 FM, Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guest: Maira Bundza 

Latvia's National Library (Photo by Maira Bundza)

Small kids and the elderly bent with age, and every age between, lined up in a human chain in the Latvia's capital city Riga. It began in Old Riga and stretched across a bridge to the opposite shore of the Daugava River. It was a cold January day in 2014 but 14,000 book lovers created what became known as the “Path of Light.” One by one by one, they passed books from one pair of hands to the next, down the chain until they reached the new National Library of Latvia. The “chain” was five miles long and the passing of the books began at midnight.

“Yet they didn’t get that many books across because everybody stopped to look at them,” says Maira Bundža, a librarian of Latvian heritage at Western Michigan University’s Waldo Library. “Even though it was freezing cold that day, people were so fascinated with the books.” Bundža has often traveled to Latvia and most recently toured the National Library there.

Bundža was born to Latvian parents; refugees who immigrated to the United States during World War II when the Soviet army invaded Latvia. She moved to Kalamazoo in 1982 to work at the Latvian Studies Center at WMU, and in 15 years she created the largest ...

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