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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Workshop offers parenting, caregiver tips for raising children of color through Spokane County Library District

Maria Pia Johnson Barreto with her children Alek, left, and Abrielle.  (Courtesy of Jade Averill)
By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

The Spokane County Library District is offering a new parenting workshop specifically for caregivers raising children of color. The class is part of an ongoing commitment by the district to ensure county libraries are meeting the needs of their communities.

“In 2019, leaders of the Latino community came to us and offered to help make the library better for the Latino community,” librarian Dana Mannino said. “It’s been a pure delight with lots of twists, turns, trial and error.”

One of the first things the district did was to offer the Prime Time Family Reading Program in Spanish.

“We had to get permission from Humanities Washington (the program sponsor) to offer the program outside of schools,” she said.

Partnering with the Latinos En Spokane organization, SCLD has offered Prime Time in Spanish several times.

While working with that program, Mannino met Maria Pia Johnson Barreto and the idea for a workshop offering support, education and space for those raising BIPOC children took root.

Born in Peru, Barreto traveled around the world as a kid.

“I struggled to connect to my cultural identity,” she said. “I was like a wallflower through life. It’s hard to choose where you belong.”

As an adult, she embraced her Peruvian, Latina and Indigenous heritage.

“Reconnection to my culture brought me a lot of healing.”

Baretto immigrated to the U.S. in 2010 to attend the University of Washington and spent many years working in education, curriculum design and child advocacy.

In 2017, she moved to Spokane with her family.

“My dream was to focus on family wellness – to create more spaces to teach and serve children of color – to talk about the importance of culture and how it impacts family,” she said.

She launched Rivers of Colors in December to offer education and consulting services to organizations, schools and families, and is actively seeking partnerships and funding.

“It’s about including diversity and the integration of culture into curriculum and facilitating conversations,” she said. “I’m committed to seeing cultural identity be an integral part of parenting, education and organizational wellness.”

The workshop is for caregivers who long to give their child a strong sense of cultural identity amid the stresses and pressures children of color face. It’s also for parents who want to step away from parenting practices that were developed in response to trauma or unjust systems.

“Many of us child advocates doing this work say that parenting in 2023 is the vehicle that helps keep oppressive systems alive,” Barreto said. “But parenting can also be the vehicle that helps us reach liberation if we choose to engage in healing and cultural connection.”

She believes centering culture in our work with children will allow them to become strong agents of social justice when they grow up.

The workshop is open to all caregivers of BIPOC children, regardless if the caregivers share their child’s cultural background, and offers a starting point for engaging in challenging conversations with children on topics such as race and racism.

“I hope that parents will find passion and strength to continue to care for their children,” Barreto said. “It’s true our children face many difficult things, but they do have power and a voice. There’s also an element of joy. We want them to celebrate and be proud of who they are.”

The library district will offer the workshop again in January at North Spokane, and a Spanish-language version will be available this spring.

“SCLD is prioritizing programs that build a welcoming diverse community, and programs that create connections and fight loneliness – two things that we heard were important to our customers,” Mannino said. “I hope that people attending this workshop learn new tools to nurture a positive sense of identity in their children. I also hope they meet new friends who can support them in their journey.”

Contact Cindy Hval at