Did you know you could take your child to a dual-language storytime almost every day of the week, for free? Until recently, I never knew about the Spanish–English storytimes at various branches of the Austin Public Library, but once I found out about them, I couldn’t believe what we’d been missing. Whether your little one’s first language is English, Spanish or something else, they will have fun and learn a lot at these awesome events at Austin Public Library branches around town.
Ruiz Branch of the APL
We went to a Wednesday morning storytime at the Ruiz Branch on Grove Blvd. This branch was new to me, and it’s a modern limestone building in a really pretty part of town, right near the river and the ACC Riverside campus. The area is very lush and green, full of leafy trees and students walking around. All storytimes are listed on the Austin Public Library website as beginning at 10:15 AM (full schedule with locations listed below), and the handmade sign on the front door of the Ruiz library said the same. The front-desk librarian, however, told me storytime would start at 10:30, but that Zeph and I could go into the little room to wait. Well, I’m glad we did — storytime actually was starting right at 10:15, just as the sign and website had claimed. So I would go with the time listed on the website, unless a particular branch has a sign up indicating otherwise.
Ms. Yvette and Little Bear
When we walked into the room, I was surprised and pleased to find that the woman leading the storytime, Ms. Yvette, was a mom friend from one of Pearl’s play groups. She had already led the other children at the storytime in a welcome song in both Spanish and English; right after we arrived, she brought out Little Bear to draw out the crowd. The letters featured at this particular storytime were “B” for beach and “P” for playa (the Spanish word for beach), to go with the stories Ms. Yvette was reading that were all about going to the beach. But first, she led the room in singing some favorite songs to get everyone moving, loosened up and comfortable — “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and “Happy and You Know It.”
Reading Duck and Goose Go to the Beach
After singing, Ms. Yvette read the first book, Duck and Goose go to the Beach (by Tad Hills), in English. Then we sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider” first in English and then in Spanish, and then she read Hello Ocean/Hola Mar (de Pam Muñoz Ryan), which is written in both English and Spanish, side by side on each page. The growing crowd of children, who ranged from a newborn baby to a little girl around five or six years old, sat and listened quietly as Ms. Yvette read the stories in her calm, melodic and lovely voice. Next, Ms. Yvette announced that it was time to get up and move! She passed out colorful scarves and egg-shakers to every kid and any adults who wanted them, too, and then played a song (sung in Spanish) on a CD while everyone danced around and shook their noise-makers. Then, after one more story, it was craft time! We got to make colorful sun visors for the kids to take with them the next time they go swimming. Zephyr was a little young for the crafting (he mostly just chewed on crayons), but Pearl would have loved it, and it was fun to watch the older kids draw, glue paper and sprinkle glitter to make their visors their very own.
Craft time: Making visors
Seriously, can you believe how many fun activities Ms. Yvette packed into 45 minutes? Three stories, singing and dancing, scarves and noise-makers, and a craft! Through it all, I kept thinking, “This is as fun as Gymboree!” (I took Pearl to classes there for a couple of years, and these days I take Zephyr once a week.) I still can’t believe the whole storytime event was so fun and so free! A note about getting to the Ruiz Branch storytime: If you decide to go to the Wednesday storytime at Ruiz Branch too, note that the navigation app on your Smartphone may lead you a bit out of your way! At least, mine did — it told me to go too far north on Grove, then make a U-turn and backtrack a half-mile to the library, which turned out to be totally unnecessary. The entrance to the library is the very first turn north of E. Riverside Drive.
I definitely recommend Ms. Yvette’s storytimes, and she leads several each week, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Apparently, there is also a storytime for older children at the Ruiz Branch on Thursdays at 4 PM, called Book Circle/Círculo de Lectores, structured similarly to the morning storytime Zeph and I attended, with stories and a craft.
Catherine A. Morris is a writer as well as a once-and-future teacher, musician, jogger and triathlete living in southwest Austin, Texas. Yes, most of her former passions and pastimes have given way, at least for now, to her current, main passion and pastime: caring for her two kids, toddler Pearl and baby Zephyr. Pearl and Zeph make Catherine and her husband laugh (and cry) on a daily basis, and give Catherine plenty of good reasons to seek out free, fun activities to keep everyone alive, engaged and happy from one moment to the next.