Storytime gets imaginative for area tots

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 24, 2003

Cari Quam/Austin Daily Herald

On Tuesday evenings during the summer, a half dozen children sit in the library and listen to Laura Ramirez tell them a story.

Their imaginations take them to far off places or to towns similar to Austin about children with lives similar to theirs.

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And each story is told in Spanish.

Ramirez has been reading stories books for Storytime in Spanish at the Austin Public Library for two years. She asked the library if such a program could be offered to accommodate the growing number of Hispanic families in town.

"I saw the need. It was all my decision to come and to volunteer," she said.

The library agreed and while two of her children attend karate practice, the other two join Ramirez at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays for a half-hour of reading.

The reason for offering these classes is simple, she said.

"For the brain," she said, with smile. "You read to them and they get smart. You have to read to the kids."

During story time, Ramirez reads three books that the children pick out. After the books are read, sometimes she leads the children in song.

The children that attend are between the ages of 3 and 6.

"They like it. They do," Ramirez said.

They're favorite books are the Clifford, The Big Red Dog series, she said.

Most of the time, about seven children show up and oftentimes the same ones each week.

Ramirez recognizes them from another volunteer activity she performs -- teaching first communion classes at Queen of Angels Catholic Church.

Teaching is second nature for the women who taught elementary school in Leon, Mexico, before moving to LeSuer, Minn., in 1991. In 1992, she and her family settled in Austin. Her four children are now ages 13, 10, 9 and 5.

Ramirez admits she misses teaching, but the number of classes she would have to take to get her teaching license in the United States would take too much time away from her family. Volunteering to read to the children is enables her to teach again.

"At least I have a half an hour with the kids. It helps," she said.

Ramirez also helps the Hispanic community through her job at the Parenting Resource Center. She answers the La linea de apoyo, the Spanish-language parenting warmline, at the PRC. She also translates brochures and information into Spanish.

She said he holds the story time at 5:30 p.m. because it's more convenient for working mothers. It also works well with her schedule, especially when she can bring her two youngest children.

Maureen Steenblock, children's librarian, said the library tries to offer more programs in Spanish.

"We found that there are a lot of people that don't speak English," she said.

The children's section has a collection of Spanish-language books, many of which Ramirez requests.

"I think that the children that are attending enjoy it," Steenblock said of Storytime in Spanish. "I see the same people using the library."

Ramirez enjoys helping the children enjoy stories and hopes it will make a difference in their education.

"It helps them, too, for imagination so they can think more," she said.

Storytime in Spanish will begin its third year at 5:30 p.m. June 10.