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Employee Expands Library's Reach by Translating Children's Books to Her Native Tongue

Arlene Wilson is changing the dynamics of the Kenton County Public Library.
Always a place to be able to visit the world virtually, the library is being enhanced by the Phillippines native who is translating children's books into the language of her homeland, Tagalog, essentially expanding the inventory of books.
"So far I have translated five books that are in print, but I have translated 15 more that are in the pipeline," said Wilson, a Children's Programmer at the Erlanger branch of the library. "The Mantra Lingua Publishing Company translates books into 52 languages and Tagalog is one of them. The books I have done are already in the world catalog."
Wilson became aware of the deficit in books translated into Tagalog five years ago when she was doing a program at the Independence branch of the library.
"I wanted to use a book called Farmer Duck, and also The Very Hungry Caterpillar, so I called Mantra Lingua and asked them what books did they have in Tagalog," she explained. "They told me what they had and said they probably won't have anymore because the lady who translated the books for them had moved away. I said, do you need someone to translate for you? And they hired me the next day. That was five years ago in March."
The books that Wilson has translated and are in print are Alfie's Angels, Lima's Red Hot Chili Pepper, I'm Coming to Get You, That's my Mom, and The Wild Washerwomen.
Seven years ago Wilson initiated a program at the library called Filipino Independence Day, which happens this year on June 13. The program lasts two hours and features native dancing, and songs, and games, plus plenty of food, which the guests participate in bringing.
"The Phillippines are well known for their hospitality," Wilson commented. "We now have about 120 people who come to the Independence day celebration, and we will have at least 10 different dishes to try. I also wrote a grant for $600 to be able to purchase the books I have translated so I can give each family a book to take home with them."
The Filipino population in the United States has blossomed, going from a little over 2 million in 2000, according to the Census, to 3.4 million in 2010. Counting mixed race people, the U.S. estimates that there were 4 million Filipino people in the United States in 2011.
Wilson was born and raised in the Phillippines and her mom and dad, five brothers and three sisters still live there. Early on, Wilson became pen pals with a sailor in the Navy, and they were married in 1995.
"We moved to California, and it was a culture shock for me," Wilson remembered. "But I became pregnant so I was pretty busy. In 1999, her husband was deployed so he moved the family to this area because his family lived here and we thought I could have the help of his family."
Wilson has four children, Jade, 19, who is attending the University of Louisville, Richie, 17, who attends Conner high school, Tristan, 9, and Ethan, 8, who both go to Goodrich Elementary. Her marriage broke up right after Ethan was born, so Wilson has been a single mom since then, struggling to be both mom and dad and still work full time. But last year she had a second chance at love, and became engaged to Daniel Brown, who, since they had met at the library, proposed to her there. They haven't set a date yet, but Wilson is very pleased with the changes in her family since Brown has entered her life.
"The younger children call him daddy, and he has encouraged them to be respectful and responsible," Wilson said. "We are hoping to go back to the Phillippines and visit my family for three weeks this spring, and I am so excited. I haven't been back home since 2011 because it is so expensive."
Wilson explained that right now it is going into the very hot season in the Phillippines.
"From March to July it is hot," she stated. "From July through December it is rainy and there can be hurricanes. November through February is our coldest time, but still it doesn't get much lower than 50 degrees. When I moved to California there was a great culture shock, but at least the climate was more similar to my home. When I moved here I couldn't believe how cold it could get. I had no knowledge of black ice, and once when I went out I was wearing tennis shoes, and I immediately slipped and fell. I can laugh about it now, but I just didn't know about it."
Wilson thinks that having children's books translated into her native language is a wonderful thing for families who still speak Tagalog in their small family units and who might have just come to the states, as well as those who are in her homeland and all around the world. Having been at the Erlanger library since 2008 Wilson is familiar with the power of books to be able to close the cultural gap around the world.
"There is a program called the Talking Pen, where there is a special pen children can point at the word in a book and a voice says the word," explained Wilson. "They have asked me to be the voice for my books, because I know the pronunciations of the words. I am very excited to do that, too."
The library is happy to have Wilson on staff.
"Arlene is a very valued employee," said Dave Schroeder, Director of the Kenton County Library. "Her language skills are very helpful to the library and in our programming and really bring a diversity to the Erlanger branch that we wouldn't otherwise have. Those skills are put to good use on our cultural and food programs, as well as other ways. We are happy to have Arlene on our staff, and happy to have many staff members whose varied skills contribute to our programs and the services we offer here at the library."
Anyone who would like to see the books that Wilson has translated can go to the Kenton County Library. Anyone who would like to attend the Filipino Independence Day celebration on June 13 can contact Wilson at the library at 859­-962-­4003 to sign up.
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor