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Story time reaches new population





Working with Hispanic families through her job at Early Childhood Connections, Corrie Zimmerman knew there was a growing Spanish-speaking community.

Erin Hernandez, who's in the ECC parents-as-teachers program and a member of a bilingual family, agreed.

A stay-at-home mother to three children, Hernandez also serves as an interpreter at the Ellis County Courthouse.

The two women brainstormed ideas and came up with a Spanish story hour -- Hora de Leer -- that meets Wednesday mornings at the Hays Public Library.

"We feel it's a growing population, and we would like to provide more resources for our bilingual families," Zimmerman said.

The two women alternate planning the weekly preschool-oriented activities that include singing, playing games and reading, but share the weekly leadership role.

Hernandez used stuffed animals to teach the concepts of pequeno (small) and grande (large) at Wednesday's story hour.

The program goes beyond children and reaches out to families "to get them more integrated into the library," Hernandez said. "A lot of the kids, once they get into junior high, come to the library after school, but the parents aren't usually involved in it. This was a way to integrate the whole family into the library system."

The program uses the English story time themes, but includes social and emotional development and parental interaction with their children.

"I felt it was important to emphasize the family development part and the family unit, having parents also participate in the play time their children are involved with, whether it's reading, playing, talking to them, telling stories, (listening to) music," Zimmerman said.

Irasema Fernandez brings her son Jose, 3, to Hora de Leer because it aids his development.

"It helps him learn more," she said as Zimmerman translated.

The library was pleased to support the idea of a Spanish story time.

"The population is there, and this group is not being reached in any way," Hernandez said.

Brandon Hines, youth services librarian, said the library is taking its first steps to reach Spanish-speaking patrons with approximately 300 titles in the children's Spanish section.

"We have a growing collection," he said.

Hines said library staff members pulled the Spanish books out of the general collection and moved them to their own section.

The library also has an English as a second language program.

The Spanish story hour isn't just for those who speak the language. Anyone who would like to learn the language or wants to attend a bilingual story hour also are welcome.

"So if you want to start learning Spanish, just getting the basics, story hour would be a good start," Zimmerman said.