San Antonio-based Trinity University Press’s inaugural foray into children’s books – the Arte Kids series of bilingual English-Spanish board books – is the product of a unique collaboration. The line, which introduces basic concepts, is a joint effort among the press, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and the San Antonio Public Library Foundation. Designed by Madeleine Budnick, the 7x7 books are illustrated with artwork from the museum’s collection.

Launched in 2011 with 1,2,3, Si!, Arte Kids currently has 300,000 copies in print. The press released Colores Everywhere! and Hello, Círculos! in 2012, and added Animal Amigos! and Black & Blanco! this month. PGW/Perseus distributes Trinity University Press books.

The triple-organization collaboration had several inspirations, according to Tom Payton, associate director of Trinity University Press. “The San Antonio Public Library Foundation has one of the country’s largest Born to Read programs, a nonprofit organization promoting early literacy,” he explained. “They send all local parents of newborns home from the hospital with a bag full of educational materials and books.”

Payton said that Kaye Lenox, the Foundation’s former president, “loves using art as a teaching tool, and had been buying board books from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to include in these bags. Kaye started talking to friends at the San Antonio Museum of Art, which has a deep collection, and they came up with the idea of custom publishing books using that museum’s artwork, which could be used in the Born to Read distributions.”

The next logical step was contacting the press, which has a trade publishing program, and Payton eagerly embraced the project. Given the San Antonio area’s heavily Hispanic population, the notion of pairing the art with text in both English and Spanish was logical. “So after we formed this triumvirate, Arte Kids came together quite smoothly,” he said. “The books feature art from all periods and continents, but is slanted a bit more toward Latin American and Hispanic art.”

The books have been well received in a variety of markets, the publisher reported, including independent bookstores, Barnes & Noble outlets, and museum shops. Payton said that the press had “some nice bulk sales” to H-E-B, a large southwestern grocery chain that “is very active in promoting childhood literacy.”

Trinity University Press is creating an interactive Arte Kids Web site and app that are expected to be live by September. Both will incorporate educational games and expanded content from the series. The publisher’s fall marketing campaign for the series will include an online initiative, outreach to librarians, and a branded point-of-purchase display for retailers.

Various aspects of the Arte Kids books add to the series’ appeal, said Payton. “We’ve had a lot of feedback about how colorful and lively the art is, and we hear over and over again how much parents, librarians, and educators like the bilingual aspect of the books. And we tried to build the content so it’s more complex, to give the books a wider window in terms of age. We wanted the books prompt intellectual curiosity – and kids’ questions.”

Animal Amigos! by the San Antonio Museum of Art. Trinity University Press, $7.95 June ISBN 978-1-59534-152-5

Black & Blanco! by the San Antonio Museum of Art. Trinity University Press, $7.95 June ISBN 978-1-59534-154-9