Bilingual storytimes expand children’s minds


Nisha Marino

Kathryn Wiszowaty reads a book in English, then Jocelyne Concordel reads the same book in Spanish.

Nisha Marino, Highlander Editor-in-Chief

As the world grows, more parents and schools attempt to involve their children in multiple languages. The San Mateo County Libraries (SMCL) are no different.

Nearly every day of the week, SMCL holds educational events for people of all ages. These activities include regular storytimes, which help engage young children in reading.

“We started doing bilingual storytimes about five years ago,” Kathryn Wiszowaty, SMCL’s community program specialist, said. “We do them about once a month, and we take the summer off.”

According to its website, SMCL hosts storytimes in English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, and American Sign Language. SMCL holds storytimes for different languages at specific libraries based on what the community seems to need.

“We want to include caregivers if they speak that language,” Wiszowaty said. “We also want to reinforce for the children that the language is being spoken in places other than just at home. The more they hear it outside of the house, the more acceptable they will think it is for them to speak it.”

Mayra Chavolla, a first-time attendee of bilingual storytimes, speaks Spanish at home with her daughter. Chavolla and her daughter attended the Spanish bilingual storytime at the Woodside Library on April 11.

“We originally just wanted to go to the library, and then I saw this happening and thought we should try it out,” Chavolla said. “I’ll definitely try to come back.”

On April 11, about 18 people–including children–appeared for the storytime. Wiszowaty noted the session as unusually small. Typically, SMCL’s storytimes have several regulars who come with the children under their care.

“I take my grandchildren every day to whichever library is doing this,” Vijaya Venkatesh, a regular at bilingual storytimes, said. “I see the influence [of storytimes] on my children and how sharpening to their minds it has been.”

Both Wizowaty and Jocelyne Concordel, a library assistant who runs several bilingual storytimes, take note of these regulars.

“Every Wednesday I see progress. She [Venkatesh’s granddaughter] used to just sleep during our sessions, but now that she’s a few months older, she’s starting to react to what we’re doing,” Concordel said.

The goal of child-oriented events at SMCL is reaction and enthusiasm.

“Children are like sponges,” Wiszowaty said. “They absorb anything. We try to overemphasize so they react to us.”


More bilingual storytimes can be found here.