PRIME TIME STORYTELLERS: Bilingual library program gains popularity

Michael Tortorich
Children and parents listen to “Ruby’s Wish,” read by Dr. Mary Jill Brody, left, and Barnie Salinas, right. The storytelling is part of the six-week Prime Time Family Reading Time for children and parents. It is held every Tuesday at the Ascension Parish Library in Gonzales through April 7.

The bilingual reading program at the Ascension Parish Library has grown over the years.

Prime Time Family Reading Time targets children ages 6-10 and their parents in an effort to foster a love for learning through reading. Both Spanish and English are spoken during the program.

The library received a grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities to host the family literacy program.

Some 17,000 children and parents have participated in the 425 programs in 61 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes.

Prime Time is a six-week series of readings and discussions on such themes as responsibility, loyalty and individuality. The program has been held on Tuesday nights starting March 3 at the Gonzales library. It will continue through April 7.

Dr. Mary Jill Brody, a professor of geography and anthropology at LSU, and Barnie Salinas have served as the storytellers and discussion leaders since the program started at the library. They alternate between English and Spanish as they tell the stories and lead the discussions.

Brody has been a Prime Time scholar since 1999, and has been honored by the LEH for her work.

Brody said she has seen more new families take part in the program over the last few years it has been conducted in Gonzales. Some have been participating since its inception.

For about half of the participants, their first language is Spanish. Despite the mixture of languages, the program maintains a level of comfort to communicate in either language.

Tuesday the storytellers read “Ruby’s Wish” by Shirin Yim Bridges and Marta Anson.

The group discussed the story of a young girl named Ruby who lives in a large Chinese family.

Every Tuesday the program begins with dinner. The newly-opened Casa Maria restaurant on Airline Highway in Gonzales donated tacos and rice for the meal.

The Gonzales Weekly Citizen donates newspapers each week to the program.

Barnie Salinas, left, and Dr. Mary Jill Brody read “Ruby’s Wish” to the crowd at the Ascension Parish Library in Gonzales Tuesday night.