“I was born and raised in Mexico City, and I came to the U.S. in college to study graphic design. In my adolescence, I took a course in Mexico to become what they call a ‘monitor,’ which is kind of like a teacher.
Working with children has taught me that stories can open up new worlds to people. Even though we live in one world, we have different realities. Books give children the opportunity to view someone else’s life and imagine how they wound up in the situations they’re in. It is beautiful when a child chooses to open their mind and their heart to another culture — to relate to others and choose to learn from them, instead of pushing them away.
When I do story times in Spanish, people open their eyes really big, like they’re not sure if they’re hearing me properly. They’re not sure what’s going on. But the good thing about reading to children (or even adults) in a different language is that eventually, they start understanding without realizing it. And when they become familiar with the words, they're able to understand the basic context of what’s going on.
What I hope for children who attend my story time is that they will see the language as a possibility for themselves. That it’s an option for them to speak, if they want to learn. I’ve had parents come to me after a story time I’ve done and say, ‘My child wants to speak Spanish now.’ It doesn’t have to be Spanish. It can be French or German, but if I can inspire them to grow that part of themselves, it will help them develop and give them opportunities to communicate with others.
When you know another language, you're able to notice if someone is in distress and help ease their mind. For example, somebody may be looking for cold medicine, but they don’t know how to say it in English. If you can translate it for them, that makes a world of difference. Or a child might be crying, but then a new face comes along and speaks their language. Then they feel safe. It might seem trivial, but that is something big.
Learning another language enriches your experience of your world and community. People may not think many Spanish speakers live in our area, but I would tell them to look around carefully, and you’ll be very surprised. Maybe 20 years ago, you’d have to search hard to find Spanish speakers. But now, we’re celebrating our traditions and getting a little more recognition. We’re hosting festivals and events for Day of the Dead or El Día De Guadalupe. We’re very easy to find.”
Cris Hertle, storyteller and Stow resident
Families are invited to join Cris this Saturday at 10:30 AM for a special Hispanic Heritage Story Time with books, songs, and games in Spanish and English. Register here.