A Spanish library on wheels
Club Soletes’ Wee Spanish Mobile Library brings Spanish storytelling to Glasgow’s public spaces
Finishing a tale, the storyteller asks the children in Spanish: “Do you know what makes you happy?” Seated on blankets on the floor, they look around for an answer, until one shouts: “Pescar!”, meaning “fishing!”.
“Let us draw what gives us happiness,” the storyteller says, putting a large piece of paper on the floor and handing coloured pencils to the children. Immediately, the paper is filled with multi-coloured doodles of people, animals, landscapes, and things that only the artist would know what they are.
It is the morning of February 4th at Kibble Palace, a greenhouse in the Botanic Gardens of Glasgow. The children are attending one of the monthly storytelling sessions organized by Club Soletes, a charity formed by Spanish-speaking families settled in Glasgow.
The club creates a space for children to talk in Spanish and learn about Hispanic culture. It is open to everyone, attracting 48 families from Spain and Latin-America during the last six months.
Every Friday afternoon, they gather at Kelvinside Hillhead Parish Church. There, children who are between two and twelve years old play with educational toys and books in Spanish, and listen to a tale from a professional storyteller.
Club Soletes started in 2003, becoming a registered charity in 2005. The organization is led by a volunteer committee, whose members do not receive any salary, and Ruth McKay is the current chairperson.
Last year, the club benefitted from a Big Lottery Fund, which helped them to establish The Wee Spanish Mobile Library – or Biciteca, which in Spanish is a mix of two words: bike and library. That is exactly the project, a bike that is also a library, which goes through Glasgow spreading stories.
The Biciteca began in August, 2016. Since then, it has visited three nurseries and five parks and participated in twelve Club Solete´s meetings. According to the organization, almost 500 children have attended storytelling sessions.
The Biciteca will visit one park per month. Future locations and schedules will be launched on their social media accounts, and these events will continue until September, when funding for the project will finish. The club is looking for support to continue.
At Kibble Palace, the organisers shared books amongst the twenty children and their parents.
A mother took one and practiced the numbers in Spanish with her four- and five-year-old children. “Uno, dos, tres…,” the siblings repeated. Their father is from Spain, the mother explained, and he always speaks to them in Spanish, so they can understand, but often have trouble speaking it. She thought they could improve their skills by meeting other bilingual children.
One of the parents decided to teach Spanish to her daughter for two main reasons: first to improve her brain activity and second to maintain her Hispanic heritage.
When interviewed, the Secretary of the Club refuted the notion present at some schools: that it is better to teach only one language to children, because it otherwise leads to confusion. She argues that the child benefits in various ways from being bilingual. Skills such as reasoning, problem-solving and multi-tasking develop more than if the child speaks one language.
When the children finish reading the books, the Catalan storyteller Sònia Gardés caught the attention of everyone. She presented an Arab tale called “The Happy Person’s Shirt”. “Because of the current context, I wanted to remind of the huge Arab contribution toward Hispanic culture”, she announced in Spanish.
The story contrasts fast, modern life with an ecological lifestyle. It is about a girl who lives in a huge city, but becomes ill. After the doctor’s advice failed, she becomes better thanks to the wisdom of a happy person: a humble farmer, who teaches her how to connect to nature.
An important character is Lola, a parrot that helps the girl and has to avoid false happiness related to money. Finally, the girl leaves the city and spends valuable time with her parents in the countryside. And the storyteller asks: “What makes you happy?”
For more information on The Wee Spanish Mobile Library and Club Soletes here.