Parents filled the seats in the storytime room at Gilroy library on April 6 as their smiling children sat on the floor, getting as close as they could to Gilroy librarian and storyteller Elizabeth Munoz-Rosas.
Blanca Garcia of Gilroy brought her son Jesse, 2, to the storytime hour.
“It was great, it was great, I loved the fact that it was very active, and very fun, especially for my son,” Garcia said. “And the story seemed like it was a native Spanish story, which I liked as well.”
Munoz-Rosas admitted that she felt a bit nervous presenting the first Spanish storytime at the library, where she read from the book, Los Seis Deseos de la Jirafa (The Six Wishes of the Giraffe), by Alma Flor Ada, among other titles, all in Spanish.
“I think offering an opportunity to practice, and learn about another language, or another culture, it just helps them be ready for what’s coming up ahead, giving them the skills for the global market, because they will be needing them,” Munoz-Rosas said.
Almost four years ago, when Munoz-Rosas joined the library, she realized the community had a need for this type of storytime as she received requests from library patrons for additional books and events in Spanish.
With the library’s support, she responded by offering bilingual storytime, which continues to be very well attended.
Last year the Gilroy Unified School District implemented a dual-immersion curriculum, teaching students 50 percent of the time in English, and 50 percent of the time in Spanish, in selected classes throughout the school district. The success of this program earned GUSD the Golden Bell award in December from the California School Board Association.
Munoz-Rosas believes the dual-immersion program went a long way toward closing the reading gap.
“I think [the students] feel very comfortable that the language and their culture was being valued, and accepted, and part of everyday life,” Munoz-Rosas said.
Since 1971, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, NAEYC, has designated April as the Month of the Young Child, encouraging schools and libraries to focus on providing literacy programs to the children in their community.
Gilroy Library is doing exactly that by offering Spanish story hour every Wednesday afternoon in April.
On Saturday, April 30 from noon to 2 p.m. in the outdoor patio, the library will host Dia del Niño Crafts for Kids, an event in conjunction with El Dia de los Niños, El Dia de los Libros, (The day of the Children, The day of the Book) the annual celebration of books sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children.
In Mexico, because of cost and limited availability, children’s books are not easy to come by.
“It is really hard to get any literature in kids hands,” Munoz-Rosas said, adding, “Like for me, I didn’t have my first book until I was in high school.”
Dia del Niño will feature craft tables set up with a variety of decorations and supplies for children to take part in creating traditional Mexican toys, such as maracas, cornhusk dolls, paper flowers, and tin art.
At the close of the celebration, third grade children and younger will receive a free bilingual book.
With the introduction of Spanish storytime and the Dia del Niño celebration, Munoz-Rosas hopes library patrons will realize that their requests have been heard.
“It’s always, with the Spanish speaking community, word-of-mouth that gets it out there,” Munoz-Rosas said.
“That’s why it’s very important that we, the librarians, go out to the schools when they have their meetings, or their fairs, and attend their PTAs. People learn that way.”
The library, along with Munoz-Rosas, wants everyone in the community to be aware that quality materials, books and CDs, representing Latino culture, are ready and waiting at the library.
“We try to bring those books to these families,” Munoz-Rosas said.