When schools closed in early March and libraries quickly followed suit, Denise Woltering and her team at Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies jumped into action to figure out how they could continue offering an engaging, impactful, and educational look into Latin American culture.
Their efforts resulted in La Hora del Cuento Virtual, a weekly online Spanish storytime, presented in partnership with the Pebbles Center and the New Orleans Public Library.
"We were looking for ways to engage students, kids, and families together in something that could coordinate with learning culture and language, so we worked with a local Spanish teacher, Andrea Lopez Olatunji, who does storytimes on her own, and she really helped to get us started," Woltering said.
Since then, Woltering has brought in teachers, parents, students, faculty, and, once, the famous Ecuadorian actor Christoph Baumann to present the storytimes.
Olatunji is an author, parent, and teacher who has presented La Hora del Cuento Virtual many times and called the program “a wonderful resource.”
"When Denise first approached me about doing an online Spanish-language storytime, I thought it was a great opportunity to stay connected with the community, while also providing a service to families and parents who might be feeling overwhelmed with their new situations, Olatunji said. I'm very pleased with the impact the program has been having, and I think it's a fantastic way to promote bilingualism, language learning, and diversity."
As a parent and educator, Olatunji said she uses the resource herself, as a way to keep her students and 5-year-old son entertained and practicing Spanish. Though Olatunji teaches middle schoolers and the materials are mostly directed for a younger audience, she said she still thinks it's a great tool.
"As a teacher, I think this is a unique opportunity to bring something to them that's not traditional grammar, verbs, and strict academics, but something more fun, more relaxing," she said.