Blenheim’s library held its first Spanish book-reading and storytelling session on Saturday to help Latin American children in the community connect with their language and culture.
La Hora Del Cuento (Story time) was the brainchild of the Marlborough Multicultural Centre’s community connector Osmith Vides Contreras, who, with help from the library, the Colombian Consulate in Wellington, and volunteers from the Latino community in Blenheim, put on the event that had children laughing and learning in unison.
The first session was led by Maria Isabel Flores, whose animated storytelling kept the kids captivated as she read a Spanish language book about creatures of the South American rain forests that.
Originally from Chile, and dressed in a rain forest-inspired shawl, Flores said it was important to keep the Latino language and culture alive for future generations to read and enjoy.
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“I’m wearing this to represent the Amazon because the Amazon represents the diversity in South America.
“I volunteered to share my language because I love the Spanish language and culture, and as a mother I understand that books are really important for the learning and understanding of our legacy for new generations.
“Language is an important part of cultures all over the world, and the Latino culture and diversity is very colourful, and I think it’s a good idea that we share it with the world,” Flores said.
Contreras said Marlborough’s Latino population was growing with former refugees and workers in the wine industry moving to the region.
“The underlying principle of this project is to enhance and promote Spanish language and literacy here in Marlborough.
“Literacy helps people understand their culture, and through language you can do that. Language is culture, and culture is language. You can’t separate them.
“It is through language that people are able to express their feelings, emotions, and values,” she said.
Contreras said she’d had amazing support from the community to help with the project, and that the Colombian Consulate had been “incredibly interested and supportive”, donating books from across South America.
The library’s children’s and young persons’ librarian Tracey McKean said it was important that children had access to books from their homeland rather than generic books printed in Spanish.
“Many here have left their countries, but the power of the stories from home helps keep the ties to their culture, their language, their country, and land.
“The vision is to provide a place for the community to come together to celebrate the Spanish language, and culture, and stories, and to help migrants and former refugees feel more welcome.
“We’re hoping the project will snowball as more people become aware of it, and see there’s the opportunity to be involved,” McKean said.
One of the many people in attendance was Bianca Shepherd who had brought along her daughter in the hope she would start to learn more about the Spanish language and culture.
Originally from Romania, Shepherd said she saw many benefits of learning Spanish.
“I’ve studied Spanish, and I’m trying to get my daughter to learn it. My husband’s a Kiwi so we don’t really speak it at home, so I’d like her to learn more.
“It’s learning about the culture as well as the language. It’s a lot more colourful, and it will help her travel,” Shepherd said.
Contreras said reconnecting the children with Spanish, would ultimately help them master English.
“If you know your first language and literacy well, it will help you learn a second language faster.”
La Hora Del Cuento will be at Blenheim’s library on the first Saturday of every month. Anybody wanting to take part or be involved can email or ask at the library.
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