Telling tales in Spanish

Families enjoy story time every month at the Westminster library branch, regardless of whether they understand all the words.

SUMMER In Carroll County

July 24, 2005|By Jill Stone | Jill Stone,SUN STAFF

Courtney Zentz, 7, walked confidently into the Carroll County library meeting room and plopped down on the floor, munching on a Rice Krispie treat bar.

Jumping up when she heard the familiar song that she loves to dance to, Courtney imitated the motions of Lois Leasure, who was standing in the front of the room.

It was fiesta time in the story room, set off from the main lobby of the Westminster library branch, with children banging rhythm sticks together in a circle, singing songs and making loud animal noises.

The bilingual story time at the library, which started in September, holds monthly sessions for Spanish-speaking families, as well as English-speaking families that want to learn Spanish.

Brenda Conaway, 56, the retired children's service supervisor at the library, said the program had a slow start, with about four or five families attending each month, but she hopes it will continue to grow.

As children began to filter in Thursday night with their parents, Leasure, the library's branch manager, greeted each child with a cheerful, "Hola!"

Leasure then reached over to turn on the tape player to the Spanish equivalent of the "Hokey Pokey," encouraging the children to stand and follow her dance moves.

Then it was time for the first story. When Krystal Feeser, 21, a senior at McDaniel College, started reading, the captivated children nestled in their parents' laps, giggling and repeating the different animal noises.

"The kids are wonderful," Feeser said. "They are really accepting."

Amy Conaway, 22, Brenda Conaway's daughter, also reads to the children. She said she tries to choose books that "wouldn't be too long, and have good pictures," in the hopes that non-Spanish-speaking children "might recognize some of the words."

The two storytellers have used farm animal books like Jaja, Jiji, Cuac by Doreen Cronin, and Quiero a los Animales by Flora McDonnell.

Ana Lombardo, 44, of Westminster, a native of Peru, appreciates the bilingual story time for her two children, Isabella, 7 and Max, 5.

"It's a nice way to learn a language through songs," said Lombardo, who discovered the program through fliers posted on the library bulletin board.

Michelle Hughes, 34, of New Windsor, who also found out about the Spanish story time through the library, wants her daughter, Emma, 4, to learn a foreign language.

She said she was so impressed with the story time that she invited her friend, Laura Gulley, 35, and her two children, Liam, 2, and Noelle, 4, to join them.

Gulley, who parents are Hispanic, said she would "love for my children to grow up bilingual." She said she urges her parents to speak to her children in Spanish.

"The good thing is that they're reading books that we usually read to them in English, so they kind of know already what's being said," Gulley said.

Jocelyn Davey, 41, of Westminster appreciates the overall atmosphere of the bilingual story time.

"When you come in the door, they say, `Hola.' I like that, it's like a total immersion into the language," Davey said.

A frequent visitor at story time, Courtney made friends with a Spanish-speaking boy in her neighborhood and wanted to be able to communicate with him.

Her mother, Melissa Zentz, 36, said Courtney comes to the story time "so she could figure out what he was saying," and in turn teach him some English words.

The bilingual story time is held every third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Westminster library branch on Main Street.

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