The Itsy Bitsy Araña: Fort Worth Library’s Spanish Storytime Connects Kids With Their Home Language

The Fort Worth Public Library expanded its Spanish programming as the pandemic forced it to go virtual. Now, it hosts a Spanish storytime for young kids.

By Miranda SuarezOctober 1, 2021 12:50 pm, ,

From KERA:

En el espacio, hablan español?

What language is spoken in outer space? Is it Spanish?

That’s the big question posed to the 3- to 4-year-olds at the Spanish Story Time at the Fort Worth Public Library. Tuesday’s theme was space, and the little ones spent the next hour learning about the planets and saying buenas noches, luna.

This live, interactive Zoom eventwas created because of the pandemic. In March 2020, the library needed to start doing virtual programs, something it had never really done before.

It also wanted to reach out to more Spanish speakers in the city, said Trevor Naughton, the Fort Worth Public Library’s youth services manager. According to US Census data, 27% of people in Fort Worth speak Spanish at home.

“It’s a large percentage, and our programming didn’t really reflect those numbers,” Naughton said.

So the library began doing virtual events in Spanish, like library use tutorials and Kindergarten prep classes. Naughton said those events often had much higher attendance than events in English.

On Tuesday, about 15 families joined the space-themed Spanish storytime. The kids sang songs like “La araña pequeñita,” made their own clay and followed along with three books as public education specialist Nancy Garcia-Olivo and her coworker read aloud.

Kids interrupted the Zoom with normal kid antics. One girl showed off the snack she was eating, and another asked everyone to admire her braid, “como Elsa.

“We usually have a little one who comes in, he’s always in his underwear,” Garcia-Olivo said.

That boy’s mom is from Puerto Rico. He’s great at English, but he’s losing his Spanish, and the storytime is one way to strengthen it, Garcia-Olivo said. Plus, when he speaks in English, the other kids who are better in Spanish learn something, too.

Garcia-Olivo said kids will always learn English as they go. The goal is to help them stay strong in the language they speak at home.

“That was something even my mom instilled in me,” she said. “We’re gonna keep your home language. This is your first language. Any other language you pick up is an additional bonus.”

Besides language skills, these story times are a good social opportunity for kids and caregivers, Naughton said.

“Caring for a little one can be an isolating experience, especially during the last 18 to 20 months,” he said.

The Fort Worth Public Library is looking at starting programs in other languages, too. In the meantime, Garcia-Olivo is already thinking of the next storytime theme. Based on what the kids seem to be interested in, they might go from outer space to under the sea.

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