It’s 10 o’clock in the morning and a group of rambunctious preschoolers wait for the library doors to open with fervent enthusiasm, shouting words like “hola” and “buenos días” as their friends arrive.
It began last year when Geneva Public Library children’s librarian Tanya Thompson noticed As-sistant Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies May Farnsworth checking out Spanish lan-guage children’s books for her pre-school age daughter. Thompson soon learned that Farnsworth taught language classes at the colleges, and asked if she would like to get involved in introducing Geneva children to Spanish.
Farnsworth was more than willing to help Thompson’s effort, volunteering at first to participate in a Spanish language story time. “I wanted to promote bilingualism within the community, and I knew there were many families in Geneva that wanted to raise bilingual children.”
Thompson says that while she was eager to offer a Spanish program at the library, her initial in-terest was more personal. “As the parent of a preschooler, I wish Spanish was taught at an early age. Kids benefit when a language is taught to them when they are young; fluency comes that much easier when they are older.”
Now a part of Geneva Public Library’s six week Summer Programs, Farnsworth teaches half-hour Spanish classes for preschool age children. Says Farnsworth, “I like preschool age because it’s before kids have a really fixed notion of language; they’re much more focused on sounds and repetition. They can listen to stories and songs and remember the sounds they hear.”
Every Tuesday begins with the cheery welcome song asking, “¿Como estas tu?” that elicits an eager chorus of “biens.” The young students learn lessons with the help of books, flash cards, and a felt board. “I enjoy interacting with children, and seeing them get excited about Spanish. Watching kids acquire a language, whether it’s English or Spanish, is exciting and fascinating,” says Farnsworth, who also provides the children, and their parents, with vocabulary handouts following each class.
Farnsworth bases her curriculum around the library’s collection of Spanish language children’s books, and lessons include colors, numbers, animals, and weather. “This program is also impor-tant because I appreciate the Spanish language collection at the library; it’s an amazing resource. I want to support the library in its efforts to maintain and promote its collection of books in Spanish and to celebrate Geneva’s cultural and linguistic diversity.”
Due to the success of the program, Farnsworth and Thompson hope to reach more of the com-munity in the future. “Right now the program is only for 2 to 5 year olds. However, I’d like to expand the program to reach 6 to 8 year olds, and eventually get HWS students involved in teaching these classes. It would be a great way for the Spanish department to interact with the Geneva community,” says Farnsworth.
The program runs July 13 to August 17, and class meets every Tuesday at 10 a.m. Farnsworth also instructs a class at 10:30 a.m. for Lakefront Preschool.