Salsa, Spanish, and Small Towns

Spanish, Salsa, and Small Towns

I live and work in different counties, and I find it difficult to stay connected to the community where I live and the community where I work, *Los Banos. As the community college librarian in LB, I do feel guilty, but my husband and I bought a great house in a great neighborhood four months before I was offered a full-time position in our hometown. I do what I can in LB outside of work, mostly with the public library.

This spring, the woman who volunteered for Spanish story time had many health issues and decided to take a break. All the story time programs are volunteer-run, which is very different from the early literacy skills-based training I received during my first regular part-time library job as a bilingual Spanish/English library assistant in the children’s department of the Stanislaus County Library. In May, I got together with the supervisory library assistant at the local branch of the Merced County Library and some Friends of the Los Banos Library members to talk about starting a bilingual Spanish/English program on Saturdays. I volunteered to do two bilingual programs this summer.

I did the first program in mid-June, and it had been two years since I had last done a story time program. It wasn’t full-blown with music and dances, but I did incorporate sitting and standing fingerplays. It was a magical experience. The supervisor said it also looked like I was really enjoying it, and I really was all smiles. Since Merced County Library’s summer reading program is music-inspired this year, I focused on music, song, and dance. The supervisor started the program with a reading of Farmer Joe and the Music Show. I picked up with Salsa, Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!: A Sonic Adventure, and De Colores. I chose these because they support diversity, specifically showing people of color; introduce kids to new music styles they might not have heard before (jazz and salsa); and Salsa and De Colores are both bilingual, so I could decide which language to read in, etc.

In my planning I completely forgot to choose a clip of salsa music, but thanks to smartphones, it was pretty easy to pull up music on YouTube. I also showed a clip of salsa dancing courtesy of one of those dancing shows because, you know, if it’s on TV, it’s got to have some kind of standard.  After I read De Colores in Spanish, I also looked up José-Luis Orozco singing “De Colores,” and we all sang as I re-read (sang) the book along to the video of Orozco. Now the big secret about me is that I do enjoy singing, but I clamp down when it comes to singing in public. But story time is just different. I remember being really unsure when I was asked to apply for the bilingual story time position at one of my former employers, but doing story time really helped me break out of my shyness a little more.

For fingerplays, we did Pulgarcito (Where is Thumbkin?), the Bee Hive, and Ábranlas, Ciérrenlas (Open, Shut Them). I think the parents were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t just all reading and sitting. I also mentioned that singing helps kids hear different sounds, and that this will help them when it’s time for them to learn how to read. (Phonological awareness–I’m legit, people.)

I also brought in a book of children’s poetry I have used before, but I ended up not using it. If you’re a bilingual children’s librarian or library assistant, parent, or teacher, you  might want to check out Alma Flor Ada’s Todo es Canción. You’ll be sure to find something no matter what theme, and the poems are all short and sweet.

While I was there, I also saw the library sub for the college library, Willie, who is one of my favorite people. She has so much kindness and also keeps it real. She also takes classes at the college. I took her to lunch at Wendy’s, and all the people working were our college students. That’s what it’s like to work in a smaller town.

After dropping Willie off back at the public library, I went downtown to Sweet as Cake Bakery to buy cupcakes for a cousin who just had a baby a few weeks earlier and checked out a home interior store, The Country Duck. The store had donated to the public library’s Small Works of Art Sale fundraiser in October (I won that gift basket, and I  never win stuff), and they also had a booth out at LB’s Tomato Festival that my husband and I went to earlier that same month.

I left LB in such a good mood, I’m not even kidding. Volunteering gives me my children’s library services fix and a chance to strengthen my relationship to the town.

If you commute to work, how do you connect to your commuter community?

*It’s really Los Baños, but because the town doesn’t have the tilde listed on its government documentation, we aren’t allowed to write it as it’s pronounced per the college board. It’s a pretty dicey issue in the community, and while I’m not in agreement, I did change all of the college library information and documentation to reflect the anglicized version. And, yeah, I guess we shouldn’t be “changing” the name if its officially “something else.” With racial and ethnic tension all over the news in our country, this banning of the tilde just doesn’t sit well with me.

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