Pam Munoz Ryan: Biography, Books & Facts

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  • 0:00 Pam Munoz Ryan's Early Life
  • 1:01 Career and Family
  • 2:55 Books and Facts
  • 4:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

Have you ever read the books 'Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride' or 'Mice and Beans?' How about 'Esperanza Rising' or 'Riding Freedom?' In this lesson, you will learn about author Pam Muñoz Ryan and her contributions to children's literature.

Pam Muñoz Ryan's Early Life

Pam Muñoz Ryan was born in 1951 in Bakersfield, California. Her mother's family was from Mexico, while her father's family was originally from Oklahoma. Growing up, she had the unique opportunity to experience the unique cultures from both sides of her family. For example, eating wonderful Mexican food made by one grandmother and delicious comfort food from the other. Before going into the fifth grade, Ryan's family moved from one side of her hometown to the other. If you've ever been the new kid at school before, you know that making new friends and adjusting to a new place can be very challenging.

To help make her transition easier, Ryan turned to books. Reading became a way to immerse herself in new exciting worlds and to experience all sorts of adventures through the eyes of different characters. In school, she always enjoyed reading and writing. She was able to put her skills to good use as the editor of her school's newspaper.

Career and Family

After high school, Pam Muñoz Ryan knew she wanted a career where she could read and write and work with books. Instead of becoming a writer, however, she went to school to become a teacher. She started out at Bakersfield Junior College and eventually graduated from San Diego State University. As a teacher, Ryan was able to put her unique cultural heritage to good use because she grew up speaking both English and Spanish. She worked as a bilingual teacher and taught in both languages for several years. Ryan took a break from teaching to have a family. While raising her four children, two boys and two girls, Ryan dabbled as an occasional substitute teacher.

After twelve years of working as a stay-at-home mom, Ryan was ready to head back to work, but not as a bilingual teacher. Instead, she worked during the day at a childcare center, but went back to school at night. Can you imagine juggling a job, a big family, and school all at one time? Pam Muñoz Ryan was practically Wonder Woman! Still, Ryan was not planning to be a writer. As she worked toward a master's degree in postsecondary education, or education that happens after high school, one of her professors took notice of her exceptional writing. Right before graduating, the professor approached Ryan and asked her to consider writing books for a living.

Ryan absolutely loved the idea of writing. After all, she had such a passion for books. Why had she not thought of this sooner? Ryan started out by writing picture books for children. She tried repeatedly to have her work published, but was unsuccessful. Despite the setbacks, she kept moving forward. Her big break came after she hired a book agent to help her. In 1994, she finally published her first book One Hundred Is a Family. After a few years of authoring picture books, Pam Muñoz Ryan began writing children's novels.

Books and Facts

For Pam Muñoz Ryan, writing books had a similar effect as reading them. Writing was the chance to experience new things through the eyes of her characters. Ryan's books feature a wide array of different characters, both fictional and non-fictional. She draws inspiration from her life experiences, especially her Mexican and American heritage.

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