Canticos is the first brand of Encantos Media Studios, but not the last. The word canticos means “little songs,” and the stories, games, apps, and videos bring traditional Latino nursery rhymes to a larger audiences, so more people can, as the tagline says, “put a little song in your heart.”
“We are starting with Latino culture, given our personal and professional backgrounds,” said Susie Jaramillo, co-founder, creator, and chief creative officer. “Our first brand is Canticos to help address the huge content vacuum that exists for this massive population in the United States.”
The Canticos stories are for everyone — families who are bilingual, families who are bicultural but not bilingual, and families who want to enjoy songs and stories from other cultures.
Encantos Media is a Public Benefit Corporation, and each brand supports a social cause. For Canticos, that means supporting programs that encourage bilingual literacy and early childhood education.
Jaramillo’s background is in art — she studied at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn — and she believes kids need art to grow into creative problem-solvers.
“Art-making is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration,” she said. “We firmly believe that one of the most desirable skills for the 21st century adult is the ability to think and problem-solve creatively. And what better time to start than preschool.”
“For this particular title we wanted to create a book that celebrated our most popular Christmas holiday song. Given that the majority of Latin Americans are Christian and that the song ‘Mi Burrito Sabanero’ is one of the most popular villancicos (Christmas carols), this is a song that most people will recognize,” Jaramillo said. “You’ll note that the animals in this book bring gifts of love to the baby Jesus. Ultimately, this book underscores that love is the most important gift you can give for the season, and it is the gift baby Jesus brought to the world.”
The My Little Donkey app features Sing to me, Read to me, and Read to myself features. Or if you prefer to experience the book in Spanish, Cántame, Léeme and Yo leo.
In addition to learning each story in Spanish and English, the Canticos books include a learning component — counting in Little Elephants / Elephantitos, shapes in Little Mice / Ratoncitos — but the primary purpose is fun.
“The fun factor comes from the catchy nursery songs, adorable characters, and engaging features of our products. We couldn’t imagine doing one without the other. We believe kids learn best when they are entertained and that all learning should be fun,” said CEO Nuria Santamaría Wolfe. “Studies have shown the music accelerates brain development of small children, especially when it comes to language acquisition, memory, motor skills, even reading.”
Canticos supplements its books with digital components. A video of the song “Los Pollitos” — which is as well-known in Latin America as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” is in the United States — is available in eight languages, including Hindi and simplified Chinese. But the chickies sing the traditional Spanish “pío, pío, pío” in each video. The song is the basis for the Little Chickies / Los Pollitos lift-the-flap book.
“We selected those eight languages as they are some of the most popular around the world and helped us reach the greatest number of children and parents. It also allowed us to show people how wonderful this song can be across a wide variety of languages,” Wolfe said.
She is passionate about using digital spaces to reach low-income students of every language background.
“The prevalent access to technology has allowed people across socioeconomic groups to access the same information, thus helping close the achievement gap,” she said. “One of the main drivers for us in making our collection of digital apps free across iOS and Android devices is it removes all financial barriers to anyone who wants to access them. Anyone can download Little Chickies and access a working musical scale, download Little Elephants to learn numbers in English and Spanish.”
Wolfe adds that learning music also benefits children’s emotional well-being.
“They feel proud and confident when they can sing a song. They bond with others when they sing songs together,” she said.
Jaramillo backs up that claim with a story from her own life.
“My 4-year-old daughter got a huge round of applause from a room full of Colombian relatives so impressed that the little American granddaughter could sing ‘Los Pollitos’ in Spanish,” she said. “I have never seen her so impressed by her abilities or her grandmother so proud.”