There’s a new face walking around the Forest Avenue Library. The bilingual storytimes are back on the schedule, and Lesvia Juarez is the new bilingual storyteller. “Les,” as she likes to be called, has previously worked as the childcare director at St. Anthony’s school and as part of Lutheran Services of Iowa’s HOPES program, which helped serve parents and children from pregnancy to age 5.
Les was born in El Salvador. She moved with her family to Des Moines at the turn of the century, when she was nine years old. “The first year, I didn’t know what snow was,” says Les. “It was so cold, I started crying.” She got acclimated to the climate, and eventually went on to graduate from Lincoln High School on the city’s South Side. “I grew up on the South Side, going to the South Side Library,” she says. “We moved here before Walmart was there (on SE 14th.)” She says it’s been wonderful to watch the growth of the Latino community in Des Moines in the past two decades.
She’s very excited about the opportunity to bring more of the Latino culture to the library, as well as explore the differences between the cultures of different Latin American countries. “I was born in El Salvador, but my husband is Mexican. My sister is married to someone from Honduras.” She says her storytimes will incorporate fun and games from across Latin America.
Most importantly, Les wants to make the bilingual storytime program accessible for the entire family. She’s choosing books and activities that can appeal to a broad age range. She plans on telling stories in English and Spanish, but the program is meant for anyone, including people that are not English or Spanish-native speakers. Les says that when young children constantly hear songs and stories in a different language, they're more likely to understand the language as a whole.
“At St. Anthony’s, we had a Spanish immersion program,” she says. “You had these little kids, five years old, and they came in and learned a new language. They grasp it really fast. By the time they’re in fifth grade, they’re fluent in English and Spanish.”
Celebrating El Día de los Niños, aka the Day of the Child
Les’ bilingual storytime is one of several bilingual program offerings at our Des Moines Public Library locations. The East Side Library also offers bilingual storytime, and regularly holds bilingual crafts and activities, with Library Assistant Marlú Abarca giving instruction in both English and Spanish. In the past, children have designed a terrarium for Earth Day, celebrated El Día de los Niños, and held a glow-in-the-dark fiesta.
These activities are open for all families. Whether you primarily speak English, Spanish, or another language, our bilingual programs are designed to involve and engage all families. Best of all - these programs are free!
The Glow-in-the-Dark Fiesta!
Upcoming bilingual programs
Bilingual Storytime at Forest Avenue Library
Saturdays (beginning May 11), 10:15 AM
Thursdays (beginning May 16), 6:30 PM
Bilingual Storytime at East Side Library
Tuesdays, 6:00 PM (no storytime on May 7)
Bilingual Crafts and Programs at East Side Library
Pressed Flowers/Flores prensadas - Thursday, May 9, 4:00 PM
Mother's Day Serenade/Serenada de día de las Madres - Saturday, May 11, 2:00 PM
DIY Bird Feeder/HUM Comedero de Pájaros - Thursday, May 16, 4:00 PM
Rosie's Ocean Slime/Slime del Mar de Rosie - Thursday, May 23, 4:00 PM
Other Bilingual Activities
Bilingual Paleta Party - Friday, May 31, 4:00 PM, Central Library
Beginning on Monday, July 1, the Des Moines Public Library will have new, expanded hours at all branches. Go to our New Hours page for more information.