Illinois alumna Laura Rodríguez-Romaní (BA, ’10, anthropology, Spanish; ME, ’14) has a passion for bilingual education and literature.
As the curator and owner of the independent online bookstore Los Amigos Books, she specializes in authentic Spanish and bilingual literature for children and young adults. To successfully run her store, Rodríguez-Romaní leans on skills and theories she learned while studying at UIUC.
“Our promise to our clients is to only offer books that use authentic Spanish in the text, as well as accurate and respectful representations of the cultures depicted in the illustrations,” Rodriguez-Romaní wrote for her website.
Briefly describe a typical workday.
A typical workday consists of answering emails, ordering inventory, paying invoices, packing and preparing orders, managing and updating our website with new inventory, and posting on our social media platforms. I do most of this from home while taking care of my 3-year-old son Noah. When we had our physical bookstore, on weekends I would do all this while taking care of customers in our bookstore. The most interesting aspect of my job is getting to meet our customers and their families in the bookstores and being able to recommend them books. In the bookstore I also enjoyed hosting bilingual events for the community such as story times, author visits, and musical guests.
What was your first job out of college?
After graduating with a master’s degree in education and teacher’s certification, I was hired as a dual language fifth grade teacher. I landed the job by applying and taking the initiative to email the principal myself to request an interview. I believe the principal appreciated how passionate I was about bilingual education and teaching for social justice.
In hindsight, what about college best prepared you for your life and career?
Absolutely everything that I learned in college still helps me in my career. Theories that I learned in my anthropology and education courses inform how I curate our book collection. My increased knowledge of the Spanish language has also helped me tremendously in every aspect of my business from written and communication skills to book curation as well.
What do you like best about your work?
I like that I am able to curate a book collection that aids families in raising their children to be bilingual and proud of their cultural and linguistic heritage. I love meeting these families, giving them book recommendations, and encouraging them to continue to read and speak to their children in Spanish and to continue to pass down cultural traditions.
Describe your proudest achievement.
My proudest achievement was opening up our temporary location in Berwyn and having it featured in national and regional news, including The New York Times, the Associated Press, The Chicago Sun-Times, WGN, Univision, and other news outlets.
Editor's note: This LAS@Work profile first appeared on the College of LAS website. It's part of a series that features LAS alumni and their careers. Visit here to read more.