Smiles and laughter – shared by parents and their children – can be understood in any language. Such is the case of a new offering at the Camas Public Library.
Spanish story times are held every Wednesday, at 11:30 a.m. The sessions are designed for infants to children 5 years old and their parents.
The Spanish story times began after friends Paola London and Denice Twyman went for a walk.
“We were thinking how wonderful it would be to have a space where we could take our kids, read books in Spanish, sing songs, get together with other Spanish speaking parents and celebrate our culture and language,” London said. “We also thought that other people in the community would be interested in attending these gatherings, so their kids could be in touch with other cultures and – of course – learn Spanish.
“The Camas Library was so welcoming and immediately loved the project,” she added. “They had been waiting for volunteers for a long time, so they were very supportive.”
Last week’s story time included a bit of salsa dancing.
“When we started planning our Spanish classes, we thought of a variety of different activities,” London said. “Dancing is, and will be, a very important part of our classes.”
The alternating of activities for 30 minutes – reading, singing and dancing – helps keep the interest of the participants with short attention spans.
“We have little babies in our classes, so it is the perfect amount of time so they don’t get too tired,” London said. “After the class, we put out some toys so kids can have some free play time.”
She enjoys seeing parents and children learning and participating together, and she hopes more community members will attend. The sessions are free and open to the public.
London, a native of Chile who now lives in Washougal, has a bachelor’s degree in education and English.
She has worked for the Evergreen School District as a staff assistant, who helped students who spoke Spanish and other languages to learn English.
“Teaching Spanish comes very natural to me,” London said.
She attended last week’s Spanish story time with her husband Travis London and daughters Valentina, 15, and Maya, seven months.
Toward the end of the session, he led the group in the singing of an “adios” song, with the volume of his voice decreasing as the verses progressed.
Travis London already knew Spanish before attending his first story time, but he enjoys also learning with his children.
“It’s the best way we can both progress,” he said. “I enjoy sharing another language with the community and the younger generation – especially in our society that is ever more demanding that everyone assimilate and leave behind their roots.”
Twyman graduated as a medical doctor in the Dominican Republic before moving to Camas with her husband.
“I’ve always loved spending time with kids and volunteering my time in the community – whether it be through my church, hosting camps back in the Dominican Republic or now through story hour at the library,” she said. “Although I have never had a formal experience in teaching Spanish, I recently started tutoring a friend’s child and I try to coach my husband from time to time too.”
Twyman said she hopes to have continued support and participation by the community, while feedback, suggestions and ideas are also welcome.
Last week, Twyman and other story time attendees sang “Happy Birthday” to her daughter Marisol who turned 1 on Friday.
Sarah Morton, 8, has attended the Spanish story time for three weeks.
“It helps the babies learn,” she said.
Sarah shows up with her sister Hannah, 20 months.
“Sometimes she cries because she wants me,” she said.
She is joined at the story time by her stepmother Luz Saavedra, formerly of Colombia, and her father Mike Morton, of Washougal.
Sarah also learns Spanish at Pacific Crest Academy, in Camas.
Carolina Jarquin, of Washougal, has attended several story times with her son Troy.
She speaks Spanish fluently, and she wants Troy to learn it as a second language.
“I do not speak or understand English very well,” Jarquin said. “I enjoy story time with my son, so that I may interact with other Spanish speaking people from other countries and cultures. My son enjoys getting out of the house and playing and learning with the other children.”
The Camas Public Library is located at 625 N.E. Fourth Ave. For more information, call 834-4692 or visit www.ci.camas.wa.us/library.