David Garcia wanted to show children at a reading that all cultures have families and traditions for celebration. He found common ground in this diverse group of children with one question.
“How many of you like chocolate?” he said.
Garcia, head of the Latino Networking Caucus and associate vice president for enrollment management, told children from the Kent State Child Development Center about Hispanic culture and traditions Wednesday.
“I think this is one of the many opportunities for younger kids to understand we are all different,” Garcia said. “We can be taller, shorter, blue eyes or green eyes — different is good.”
Garcia, wearing a traditional Hispanic scarf, read two picture books to the children, “Hooray! A Piñata” and “We are Cousins/Somos Primos.” Shelves lined with storybooks and over-sized stuffed animals served as the backdrop for story time with the children.
“The message needs to be clear for these younger children,” Garcia said. “In preparation for this, I had to think of what message I wanted to relate to these young folks that is appropriate and have the greatest impact.”
“Hooray! A Piñata” focused on traditional Hispanic celebrations.
“Different people have different ways of celebrating things, and that is OK,” Garcia said to the children, who enthusiastically talked about their experiences with piñatas.
One girl told Garcia about her cupcake piñata while another boy talked excitedly about his monster piñata.
“We are Cousins/Somos Primos” reinforced family, an important part of Hispanic culture.
Garcia asked the group of children about their families and received two or three answers about mothers, fathers and sisters. As soon as one child mentioned his dog, the children responded to Garcia about their pets at home.
“Yes, pets are part of your family too,” Garcia said to the children.
The KSU Child Development Center serves children between 18 months and 6 years old. Monica Miller Marsh, the director of the Child Development Center, said the center focuses on language and cultural diversity. Three bilingual children were a part of the group at the story time with Garcia.
The event, held by the School of Library and Information Science, took place in the Reinberger Children’s Library on the third floor of the library. The floor features the Marantz collection of children’s picture books.
Dr. Kenneth and Sylvia Marantz donated the collection to Kent State in 2008, which is used as a resource for students and faculty.
The collection of more than 24,000 picture books is the only in Ohio organized by an illustrator, not author. This library also features every Caldecott and Newbery winner since the beginning of both literary awards.
The story time with kids featured Garcia as a guest during the closing week of what he called the “best National Hispanic Heritage Month at Kent State ever.” He attributes the success of this Hispanic Heritage Month to the efforts and growth of the Latino Networking Caucus.
Garcia created the Latino Networking Caucus when he arrived at Kent State three years ago. He said he set out to create a nonprofit organization focused on the Hispanic outreach efforts.
Garcia and the Latino Networking Caucus held more events and activities this year than ever before for National Hispanic Heritage Month. Garcia said he did not expect to see this level of commitment at Kent until five years after the creation of the Latino Networking Caucus.
“The most exciting thing about these activities was, for the first time since arriving at Kent, I saw students enjoying themselves and the experience,” Garcia said. “It was exactly what I was hoping for.”
Contact Tyler Singleton at [email protected]