DNDL Storytime

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One of the most traditional and beloved forms of programming is story time. Story times, whether in school or public library settings, typically involve reading aloud several books connected to a particular subject or theme. Particularly in school libraries, story time may simply involve the reading of a single book. However, whatever the length or complexity of the program, non-Spanish-speaking librarians are frequently inhibited by their limited linguistic abilities. The following suggestions have proven not only to be workable but also to be successful in many settings.

Select books that naturally include code-switching (alternating between two or more languages in a conversation) as a major portion of their texts. Many of Susan Middleton Elya’s books, including Eight Animals on the Town; Eight Animals Play Ball; Oh No, Gotta Go!; Say Hola to Spanish; Say Hola to Spanish at the Circus; and Say Hola to Spanish, Otra Vez (Again!) provide excellent examples. Each book contains a glossary and a pronunciation guide for the Spanish language words, making it particularly painless for a limited speaker to practice and perform with great confidence. Other options include Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales, Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina, and The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos

While reading a number of these books during a single story time would prove repetitive, inserting one during programming allows non-Spanish speakers to gain confidence, provides Spanish-speaking children a connection with the readings, and gives all listeners an oral treat.

Librarians can also create their own code-switching. For example, by learning just eleven words they can pull together a fine toddler program on colors. When planning other programs, look over the books and activities and determine the central vocabulary for that particular session in order to code switch at the most advantageous times. Suggestions for this process are included in a number of recommended programs below. Be aware that children in the audience may well have heard individuals translating for one another. Because of this background, children frequently feel free to help readers with their pronunciations and with unfamiliar words. Welcome their help; for some, this translating/correcting allows them active participation in story time.

At the beginning of each program, welcome children in both English and Spanish.

Welcome Rhyme

Hola niños
Buenos dias, niños
Bienvenido, niños

Hello, children.
Good morning, children
Welcome children

Explaining fingerplays or craft activities can be difficult when speaking in a language different from the audience. If you want children to join in the storybook reading or participate in action songs and fingerplays, show them what is expected. Then give them opportunities to join in with you before the activity begins. When covering the necessary steps for an activity, show them what you expect before the session begins. If you have a camera, you may want to take a series of pictures of someone working on the project. Post those pictures in the area where the children will be working. Note that these code-switching ideas are also a great way to include languages other than Spanish in to a storytime and it can be easier to learn simple words like “hello” and “goodbye” when you sing them as a song.

Continuing the Pleasure

At every storytime, have a variety of books related to the subject or theme available for children to browse and borrow. The programs in this tool kit suggest a number of such related books. Whenever possible, have handouts with the words to songs and rhymes so that parents and caregivers can continue literacy and language experiences at home.


Created on Jul 27, 2016 | Last updated July 27, 2016