Dordt College News

Mahaffy begins bilingual story hour

January 19, 2011

Although Sioux Center has historically been dominated by Dutch people and Dutch culture, the face of the town has changed within the last decade as the Hispanic and Latino population has grown.

The evidence of the town’s changing demographics can be seen in the opening of several Mexican restaurants, a grocery store, and a Spanish-speaking church.

Now, thanks to Dordt sophomore Ruth Mahaffy, the change can also be seen in the Sioux Center Public Library’s bilingual story hour.

“In the few years that I have been working at the library, I have seen an increase in the number of Spanish-speaking patrons,” notes Mahaffy. A Spanish education major, Mahaffy translates library materials and speaks with the Spanish-speaking patrons. She explains, “I saw a need to increase Spanish language and bilingual materials as well as a need to promote literacy in both Spanish and English.”

Mahaffy worked with the children’s librarian, Judy Dirkse, to put together the bilingual story hour. She also promotes the story hour and helps lead it.

On Thursday evenings, English- and Spanish-speaking children gather to improve literacy skills, learn languages, and have fun. The hour includes the bilingual reading of several books, and it also provides many opportunities for the children to interact with each other through music, playing, making crafts, and even teaching each other Spanish and English words.

“This is not just a program for Spanish-speakers,” explains Mahaffy. “We want both Spanish- and English-speakers to join together in this program and community.”

The attendance has remained steady with up to twenty-five kids attending each night. Mahaffy notes that response to the story hour has been overwhelmingly positive, especially from Spanish-speaking families who are eager to learn English and are grateful to discover the library’s various resources.

“We started this story hour to help meet a need and serve the community, but we have been blessed as well,” remarks Mahaffy. “I have built some great relationships, improved my Spanish-speaking ability, developed some teaching skills and strategies, and had a wonderful time doing it all.”


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