New PBS Kids series 'Alma's Way' aims to teach critical thinking

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Oct. 3—Generations grew up watching Sonia Manzano as Maria on "Sesame Street."

She taught us everything from the ABC's to being kind.

Manzano is one of the driving forces behind the new PBS Kids animated series, "Alma's Way." The series is from Fred Rogers Productions and will premiere at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 4 on New Mexico PBS channel 5.1 It will also be available on the PBS Video app in both Spanish and English.

The series is inspired by Manzano's own childhood, and centers on 6-year-old Alma Rivera, a proud, confident Puerto Rican girl who lives in the Bronx with her family among a diverse group of close-knit friends and community members.

Infused with Manzano's humor and grounded in a social and emotional curriculum, the series will give children ages 4-6 the tools to find their own answers, express what they think and feel, and recognize and respect the unique perspective of others.

"I am so excited to be working with PBS Kids and Fred Rogers Productions to introduce Alma, a strong and positive Puerto Rican girl who will empower young viewers," Manzano says. "Alma's way is to think things through, and we hope the new series will show kids that their thought processes are valid and give them the confidence to think critically."

The engaging modern-day series stars Alma, along with her parents, Mami and Papi; younger brother, Junior; her Abuelo; and their lovable little dog, Chacho.

In every episode, Alma speaks directly to young viewers with asides and her "Think Through" moments, where she stops, thinks and processes. She models optimism and determination, showing that if she puts her mind to a problem, she can figure it out. Young viewers will tag along with Alma as she learns to speak up for herself, make tough decisions, figure out how to help friends, and so much more.

Manzano says each episode showcases different aspects of Latino cultures through language, food, music and customs.

"Viewers will see how other families are both alike and different from their own," Manzano says.

Music is the "backbeat" of the series and includes traditional Puerto Rican styles like plena, bomba, and salsa, along with other Latino genres such as Cuban son and Colombian cumbia. The original theme song, written and produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Bill Sherman, is performed by Flaco Navaja and Summer Rose Castillo, who plays Alma. The series' music is composed by Asher Lenz, Stephen Skratt, and Fabiola M. Mendez.

Manzano has worked for decades educating children.

She says as the next step in her journey, she wanted a show for the entire family, which also spotlights critical thinking.

"I remember the moment I realized I had the same exact amount of fingers and toes," Manzano says. "I was very young and up until that realization, I thought of my toes as grapes dangling at the end of my foot! Imagine my delight when I realized my fingers and toes corresponded. I loved the symmetry of it and intuitively felt a certain order in the world. Silly imagery, for sure — but I'd like the 'Alma's Way' audience to note that they can put two and two together to make realizations."

ON TV

"Alma's Way" will premiere at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 4, on New Mexico PBS, channel 5.1. The series is also available on the PBS Video app in both Spanish and English

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