By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
LEIPSIC — It looked like a regular story time session to anyone visiting the Leipsic branch library.
Two librarians were reading books to a gaggle of preschoolers sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of them. But what may not have sounded so familiar were the words being said — half were in Spanish.
Using the book, “How Do you Say?/Como Se Dice?”, by Angela Dominguez, librarian Laura Schroeder read a word in English, with her partner, Addie Kaple, repeating each word in Spanish.
Then the children, who are students at Sunbeams Preschool in Leipsic, tried their best at reciting each of the Spanish words: comida for food, sabrosa for delicious, agua for water, amigos for friends, fiesta for party and siesta for nap.
“Do you guys like to take siestas?” Kaple asked the youngsters.
“No!” was the collective yell from the audience.
“Someday you will,” said Kaple, laughing.
Hora de Cuentos Bilingüe, a bilingual story time offered by the Putnam County District Library, was in full swing. The event is offered once a month at the main library in Ottawa and the Leipsic Edwards-Gamper library branch.
Kaple explained the bilingual story time is a fun, educational opportunity that gives children the chance to listen and learn in two languages. Both English speakers and Spanish speakers are welcome and can benefit from the activities, she said.
“I don’t know how many parents who speak Spanish as a first language are encouraging their kids to keep that up,” she said. “But I don’t want those kids to lose the value of it. I want them to respect their native language because it’s a beautiful language and it’s so historic. Spanish is amazing. I want these kids to hold onto that.”
The bilingual story time usually features several books, with Kaple switching back and forth between English and Spanish. On this particular day in Leipsic, however, Schroeder volunteered to read the English words.
Kaple encouraged her young audience to repeat the words in Spanish, then she quizzed them about the meaning.
“It’s good to have them repeat it, too, because they’re listening and they’re taking an active part,” she said. “And they don’t have that fear that we have as adults to repeat. They don’t screw it up because they’re not scared of screwing it up.”
They also read “Call Me Tree/Llamame Arbol,” by Maya Christina Gonzalez, and “Rooster/Gallo,” by Jorge Luján.
All ages are encouraged to attend, Kaple noted.
“Because some of the kids we have coming in do hear Spanish at home. Their families are Hispanic, first or second generation or whatever,” she said. “We also have native English speakers only that come in because their parents want them to hear the language, to come in contact with it at a young age.”
Since the bilingual sessions started in October, Kaple said typical attendance at the Leipsic library has struggled with six or less each month. She attributed the low numbers to the time story time is offered — 10 a.m. on a Thursday.
“I think it’s a hard time. Parents are working,” she said.
The session in Ottawa, meanwhile, is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Kaple said 10 to 16 people generally attend, and it’s usually a 50/50 split of native English-only speakers and bilingual children who hear Spanish at home, but speak English at school.
“So I try to have a mix so it is incorporating the Spanish, but it’s not so much that they don’t understand what’s going on because then you’ll lose them,” she said.
Kaple admitted it’s a “very fly by the seat of my pants” kind of presentation.
“I think anybody that does kind of a story time with kids or even teachers, you’ve got to be flexible because you think they’re going to love something, and sometimes they’re just not into it. Or you think they’re just going to ignore the book or not really be into the book, and they love it,” she said.
A native of Ottawa, Kaple was surprised to find herself working at the public library when she returned to the area last summer from Oaxaca, Mexico.
“I came into the library with my mom and they had a sign out that they were hiring. I actually grew up coming to the library so I actually applied for that position which was just over there doing basic desk stuff,” she said.
But when she interviewed, library director Kelly Ward had other ideas.
“She said they wanted to start doing community outreach to the Latino community in the area because we feel like it’s a large community and maybe no one reaches out to them,” Kaple said.
“And there are services the library provides they can absolutely take advantage of.”
An Ottawa-Glandorf High School graduate, Kaple earned a degree in 2010 from Ohio University where she majored in English literature and minored in Spanish. After graduating, she moved to Spain and taught English as a second language to children for a year. She then worked at a used book store in Charleston, South Carolina, before moving to Mexico to teach English to adults for a year.
Kaple said she was excited to continue using her Spanish skills at the library.
“I’ve learned since starting this that story time is as much for the parents as it is for the kids. What we’re doing is making a model that parents can watch and partake in so that when they go home, they can do it,” she said.
Normal story time sessions include singing, a craft and a snack, in addition to reading. Kaple encourages parents who attend to get involved along with their children.
“If they are not dancing with me, I look at them until they dance, because if I’m dancing and singing along, they should be dancing and singing along,” she said.
Although Kaple left her position at the end of February, Ward said the library has found a replacement and will continue to offer the bilingual story times.
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