by Flora Ramirez
For this course I have chosen to work with the Center for Latin American Studies on their community outreach program called “Story Time.” This program is spearheaded by Alejandra Seufferheld. Alejandra coordinates efforts with the Urbana Free Library to host “Story Time” every second Saturday of the month. We usually begin with a short story that is written in Spanish. Then, as a pair, we translate the story from Spanish to English as we work our way through the narrative. From here we usually have a portion of the time set aside for music where children and parents are encouraged to sing along in Spanish. Normally the songs we play are chosen with the intent to teach the children simple words in Spanish such as colors or numbers. We conclude our Spanish Story Time with a craft activity; thus far we have made, “Papel Picado” (where intricate design patterns are cut out of tissue paper: a traditional form of Mexican folk art), pumpkin cards, and family trees.
During these Saturdays my main duty is to assist Alejandra with anything that will make the event run smoothly. Sometimes this may mean inviting people in the library to join us, helping program the day with activities prior to that Saturday, or reading and translating the story with Alejandra’s daughter. While my opportunities to speak Spanish are limited mainly to reading a story, I appreciate the interesting dynamic that the Urbana Free Library offers. By this I am referring to the children who come to “Story Time.” The majority of them do not actually speak Spanish and yet their parents attend the event. I think that it is wonderful that in some ways these parents accept diversity and acknowledge the globalized society we live in. Whether they are consciously or unconsciously aware of it, they are preparing their children to become individuals who welcome differences.
Even though I may be overestimating the effects of reading time, I think that at most these children are being exposed to new cultures. By simply learning new words in Spanish, learning about new foods, or simply listening to new instruments and rhythms, children can realize that different is not necessarily bad. This is a beautiful thing to me because these children are in reality learning about genuine acceptance from early on.