“Pio, pio, pio,” sang the group of children holding hands in a circle at the first Spanish story time held at the Secaucus Library on June 14. About 10 to 12 children ages 3 to 5 recited a popular Spanish rhyme, “The Baby Chicks Say (Los Pollitos Dicen),” after hearing a story read to them and reviewing letters of the alphabet in Spanish. The exercises were led by story time facilitator Paula Andrea Tropeano.
Of the 16,264 people living in Secaucus, 12.26 percent are Hispanic or Latino, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. While this number pales in comparison to neighboring cities like North Bergen where more than half the population is Hispanic or Latino, or Union City where they are the dominant ethnic group, Secaucus Latinos said they are seeking more events that celebrate culture and language closer to home.
“He would be more comfortable if he has friends who also speak [Spanish].” – Martha Tobon
The participants counted and identified the names of fruits the caterpillar ate until eventually becoming a butterfly. Most of the children in attendance already spoke Spanish, but the event is open to any child interested in exploring a new language.
Secaucus resident Tropeano came up with the idea of organizing a Spanish story time after noticing that her son was reluctant to speak Spanish for fear of being made fun of by his English-speaking friends.
Fellow parent Martha Tobon came to the story time after a similar need stating that her 5-year-old son Santiago “reads Spanish and he would be more comfortable if he has friends who also speak [Spanish].”
Tobon and Tropeano, both of Colombian background, know each other from the soccer team at Clarendon Elementary School. Tropeano coaches her 6-year-old daughter’s team there.
“I thought I would host it in my house but I know too many people interested in participating,” said Tropeano. Her home wasn’t large enough to accommodate the number of parents and children she anticipated would attend. As someone who regularly attends the library’s programs with her son, she thought it offered a good space to accommodate the informal, casual gathering.
Director Jenifer D. May was open to the idea of hosting the event and added that the library is “open to other languages also, like hindi or gujarati.”
Secaucus resident Fabiola Newman said that parents who want to expose their children to other languages have to go to other parts of Hudson County like Union City to find such programs. She brought her 4-year-old son Andres and 1-year-old daughter Soledad to the story hour.
She said she was, “excited that it is an opportunity to have Spanish outside the home.”
While the parent-led story hour does not adhere to a formal lesson plan, the children recited words related to images in the caterpillar book such as the Spanish words for strawberry, pear, and orange. They also engaged in word association with the letters of the alphabet.
The Spanish Story Time is very much in its inception. Tropeano believes it will evolve with time. She is not a teacher but interested in continuing to offer an inviting experience.
She plans to have more Spanish language materials available at the next story hour scheduled to take place the last Tuesday in June. The story hour takes place the second and fourth Tuesday of each month throughout the summer.
For more information, visit the Secaucus Public Library web site: http://secaucus.bccls.org/.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.